Top 5 Contagion&reg News Articles for the Week of May 14, 2017

In case you missed them, here are our top 5 articles for the week of May 14, 2017.

This week’s Top 5 articles focused around West Nile virus, HIV, and atopic dermatitis, among other topics. Firstly, as warmer weather moves into most parts of the country, states are seeing their first cases of West Nile virus infection in humans, and residents are urged to be vigilant about mosquito control and protection. In addition, an invasive serotype of Streptococcus pneumoniae has been found to be emerging, much to the alarm of healthcare officials.

More information continues to come to light about the HIV virus, including research we highlighted this week on the role extracellular vesicles play in virus transmission. Our second top article highlights the seemingly dark underbelly of bad hospital reporting practices, and our top article of the week draws attention to the large public health burden of atopic dermatitis and its surprising increase among the adult population.

Learn more about our top 5 articles of the week, below:

#5: West Nile Virus Is Off to an Early Start This Season

With multiple states reporting their first cases of West Nile virus (WNV), health officials are noting an early start to the virus’s seasonal activity and reminding the public to partake in mosquito control efforts.

Although the majority of individuals who become infected with the virus do not experience any symptoms, those who do, oftentimes suffer through headaches, body aches, and rash, among other symptoms. More serious WNV infections can develop into neurological infections, such as encephalitis or meningitis.

Tennessee and Texas are reporting early season cases of WNV in humans and therefore, officials are reminding residents to “use insect repellants, wear products using permethrin (an insecticide), and remove any standing water from their property.” This is particularly important in Texas, which saw “370 confirmed human cases and 18 related deaths” because of WNV in 2016. In addition, after heavy rains in parts of the state, California has reported detection of the virus in 3 dead birds, “1 each from San Mateo, Orange, and San Diego counties.” Residents are urged to try to avoid outdoor activities during times when mosquitoes are most active, such as dawn and dusk.

Learn more about the recent early-season cases of WNV in the United States, here.

#4: Pneumococcal Disease: Invasive Nonvaccine Serotype Emerges

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers have found concerning evidence of the emergence of an invasive serotype of Streptococcus pneumoniae, penicillin-nonsusceptible serotype 35B IPD [invasive pneumococcal disease]. Their findings were published in a recent issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

According to researcher Sopio Chochua, MD, PhD, and colleagues, “the number of cases of IPD caused by strains of penicillin-nonsusceptible serotype 35B increased after the PCV7 [vaccine] was introduced in 2000, and increased even further after PCV13 was introduced ten years later.”

Conjugate vaccines have long provided protection against IPD; however, the “continued emergence of serotype 35B and its increasing number of clonal complexes highlights the need for wider-spectrum pneumococcal vaccines… [and] Protection against serotype 35B should be considered in next-generation pneumococcal vaccines.”

Read a more in-depth analysis of this study, here.

#3: NIH Study Suggests New Mechanism for HIV Spread

Using new magnetic technology involving antibodies, National Institutes of Health researchers have discovered that tiny cell particles released by HIV-infected cells might help the virus spread to new cells.

The tiny “bubble-like structures” are called extracellular vesicles (EVs), and are “thought to ferry molecules from one cell to another, providing a means of communication.” These small particles can be formed and released by HIV-infected cells, and it is thought that through this process, the EVs are able to “manipulate ‘prospective host cells,’ thus allowing HIV to spread to other cells.”

Senior author Leonid Margolis, PhD, postulated that by removing EVs from HIV laboratory preparations, they will be able to “reduce HIV infection of human tissues in culture.” New therapies that specifically target EVs “could potentially hinder the ability of the virus to infect new cells.”

Find out more on HIV research through studying EVs, here.

#2: A Broken Chain of Hospital Reporting

A new report highlights that all links in the hospital reporting chain are tragically weak.

The report was put out by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General and details the quality tracking of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) investigations into suspicious data for hospital-associated infections.

Data highlighted in the report found that “CMS failed to perform in-depth reviews of 96 hospitals that submitted suspicious data patterns in 2013 and 2014.” In addition, the report shows that “CMS failed to use [required criteria measures] when they did a targeted sample review in 2016 (which looked at data from 2013 and 2014). During this review, CMS only selected 49 hospitals and none of these hospitals were chosen from analysis-based criteria (ie, they were not looking for those with aberrant data patterns or suspicious changes in reporting).”

The report brings attention to “the growing concerns that hospitals are ‘gaming’ the system and taking advantage of limited CMS validation.” The quality standards are not uniform in nature and the amount of hospitals reviewed in the overall sample (400), “only accounted for about 10% of the nation’s hospitals.”

Read more concerns over these reporting practices, here.

#1: The Increasing Public Health Burden of Atopic Dermatitis

A recently review article highlights the epidemiology of atopic dermatitis and its increasing prevalence, and found that it may be more common in adults than previously thought.

Jonathan Silverberg, MD, PhD, MPH from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine discussed the increasing burden of the chronic inflammatory disease in his article. According to Dr. Silverberg, atopic dermatitis is, “associated with a considerable public health burden, owing to its very high prevalence, considerable patient-burden, and increased healthcare utilization.”

Data from recent studies have shown that although typically considered a childhood disease, in 2010 and 2012, prevalence rates for adults in the United States were shown to be 10.2% and 7.2%, respectively. And, one study indicated that out of 60,000 households surveyed, 54% of respondents indicated onset of disease in early adulthood.

Still, the disease affects mostly children, and 2007-2008 data showed that “an estimated 2.98 million children” in the United States suffered from moderate to severe atopic dermatitis. Perhaps startlingly, data has shown that “the relative proportions of moderate and severe disease appear to increase with age.” Individuals who are African American/black may be more “prone to severe disease and increased healthcare utilization for the disease than whites.”

Although the disease is typically non-fatal, Dr. Silverberg noted that one survey found that the disease, “had the highest disability-adjusted life-years among skin disorders, which reflects both the high prevalence and patient burden.”

Continue reading to learn more about the burden of disease on the patient.