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Top 5 Contagion&reg News Articles for the Week of June 4, 2017

Superbugs, Zika, antibiotic development, C. difficile, and HIV are the article topics making up this week’s Top 5 articles.

#5: Superbugs Equal Super Headlines for the Media: Public Health Watch Report

Earlier in May, on May 8, 2017 to be exact, NBC Chicago reported on a “dangerous, untreatable superbug” that is “on the rise.” The station’s story was based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) first-ever drug-resistant bacteria list, which was issued in February—meaning, the news division at NBC Chicago felt that this “superbug” was so dangerous that residents of the Windy City did not need to know about it for a full 3 months. The bug—carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, which topped the WHO list—is, obviously, hardly a new threat, although there may be a new media-fueled panic near you sometime soon.

More on superbugs here.

#4: CDC Identifies Risk of Developing Zika Complications Based on Trimester of Infection

According to Dr. Schuchat, this report indicates that Zika is a “very serious virus when acquired during pregnancy,” regardless of when the mother was infected during pregnancy. CDC officials also acknowledge that Zika has taken an economic toll on both families with infants who have Zika-related complications, and on tourism to areas where the virus is endemic. However, the CDC is working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reduce the economic burden of care for these infants.

Based on past experience with Dengue and Chikungunya outbreaks, the CDC reports that the Zika virus is an ongoing threat in Puerto Rico and other areas. The CDC recommends that individuals living in areas with active Zika virus transmission take the necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Learn more here.

#3: Incentivizing Antibiotic Drug Development to Address Antimicrobial Resistance

Experts agree that there is a need for a steady stream of innovation to address the constantly increasing rate of antimicrobial resistance. In a session entitled, “Bridging the ‘Valley of Death,’” the speakers described the gaps in antimicrobial development and discussed how government and private industry are working to address these gaps in antimicrobial drug development. Joseph Larsen, PhD, Director of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) with the US Department of Health and Human Services, described how BARDA is working to help pharmaceutical companies develop new drugs for emerging infectious diseases. The general focus is on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense, where antibacterial development is one of the key areas of focus. The pace of antimicrobial drug development has not kept up with the rate at which resistance is developing. So, BARDA has been providing incentives for development and marketing.

More on this topic is available here.

#2: Dr. David Relman on the Past, Present, and Future Potential of Microbiome in Medicine

During the American Society for Microbiology Microbe 2017 New Orleans meeting, Contagion

®​

interviewed David Relman, MD, ASM Microbe 2017 Vice-Chair, Professor in Medicine, and Microbiology & Immunology at Stanford University on microbiome research and its potential utility in medicine.

Can We Get These Organisms Through a Pill, Instead of Insertion From Below?

Fecal transfer is being done in a pill, but it turns out you need more organisms to have an effect if you administer it orally than if you administer it rectally, but you need lots of pills, like 20-30 big pills a day, to get past the stomach. Some day we should be able to do this, for sure. There are many companies and researchers trying to sort out the minimum ecosystem needed, eg. 14 different strains for 14 different people. Then, the bacteria have to be fed appropriately or else they will be eliminated by selective advantage. The reason C. difficile transplants work so well is that they are given to the person precisely at the time they are beginning their recovery from a bout with C. difficile colitis. Most significantly, these people have a damaged ecosystem in their gut that is teetering and more vulnerable to elimination. If its left alone, it creates an inflammatory environment that most healthy bacteria cannot tolerate, while C. difficile thrives. So, now that we understand this, the organisms must be fed properly during this time along with antibiotics targeting C. difficile.

Continue reading more of the interview here.

#1: Reservoirs of Latent HIV Hinder Quest for a Cure

HIV has remained stubbornly impervious to a complete cure, and researchers have uncovered new evidence that may explain this problem, at least in part. In patients who are being treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART), it appears that a latent form of HIV residing in immune cells can continue to reproduce, potentially reactivating the virus in the body and offering resistance against ART.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, this latent HIV has an extremely long half-life, presenting a significant obstacle to complete eradication of the disease.

To learn more about the reservoir of latent HIV in immune cells, the research team grew CD4 cells from the blood of 12 HIV-positive patients who were on ART. The cells were then stimulated with rounds of various chemicals to induce them to divide and proliferate. Each time the cells were stimulated they were split into 2 groups, one of which was the control group. The other group of cells would then go through the stimulation process again. The researchers discovered that the stimulated cells were able to proliferate without releasing active HIV, but that the new cells created from this division actually did emit active HIV.

Read more here