Top 5 Contagion&reg News Articles for the Week of May 21, 2017

In case you missed them, here are our top 5 articles for the week of May 21, 2017.

This week’s Top 5 articles brought attention to important topics such as where we should be focusing our efforts in HIV research and the discovery of a new vaccine target for the ebolavirus. New research that revealed that delayed vaccinations may be to blame for bacteria-related pediatric deaths in France gained readership attention this week, as did an article covering how close we are to new and easier diagnostic tests for Zika and a new vaccine. Finally, Lyme patient advocate Pat Smith, president of the Lyme Disease Association, Inc shared her thoughts on the how the medical community has been treating Lyme disease in her commentary that is this week’s top article.

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

#5: Where Should HIV Research Be Focused in the Future

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) has set an ambitious benchmark of “diagnosing 90% of everyone who has HIV, giving antiretroviral therapy (ART) to 90% of those diagnosed, and seeing that 90% of those on ART achieve viral suppression, all by the year 2020.” How can this be accomplished? According to Carl W. Dieffenbach, PhD, director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the answer may lie in melding “the discrete areas of research into a more cohesive effort in order to take advantage of the gains being made in very different areas—from scientific advances in clinical trials to the ability of community-health organizations to get people to embrace prevention strategies such as the use of condoms and/or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).”

As Dr. Dieffenbach told Contagion®, gaps in prevention and treatment for HIV are real, and “we still need to do something to protect the HIV-negative people.” If researchers were finally able to develop a preventive vaccine, it would be “the ultimate game-changer.” Vaccines that are being developed are just about the enter clinical trials; however, and so the reality of a vaccine is still years away. In addition, such a vaccine is predicted to only provide a 50% to 60% level of efficacy.

Read more about the latest developments in HIV prevention here.

#4: Ebola Outbreak Continues to Unfold While Researchers Identify New Vaccine Target for the Virus

The latest information on the 2017 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has revealed that the current number of cases is 37 and 4 people have died. More than 400 individuals are continuing to be monitored because they have come into contact with those who are infected.

The outbreak remains confined to the Likati Health Zone in the Bas Uele Province. The remote location of the outbreak has proved to be troublesome for those involved in the relief efforts, but may still be positive in terms of containing the outbreak. “A mobile laboratory from the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) in Likat” has begun processing blood samples by polymerase chain reaction (PCR)of those who are potentially infected. In addition, 7 response committees have been deployed to the region. However, the remote location of the outbreak has all but ensured a low level of risk to the spread of disease on a global level “due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the area to major international ports.” A moderate level of risk exists at the regional level because of the “recent influx of refugees from Central African Republic” and “the proximity of international borders.”

On a related note, scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have identified “the first natural human antibodies that can neutralize and protect animals against all three major disease-causing ebolaviruses,” and these findings “could lead to the first broadly effective ebolavirus therapies and vaccines.”

Learn more about the Ebola outbreak and the findings from Albert Einstein scientists, here.

#3: Bacteria-Related Pediatric Deaths in France Linked to Late Vaccination

New research presented at the recent 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Meeting at the beginning of the month has shown that, “1 in 4 deaths caused by pediatric community-onset severe bacterial infections (COSBIs) in France could have been prevented if vaccines had been administered in a timely fashion.”

The data was presented by ChristFle Gras-Leguen, a pediatrician in the Pediatric Emergency Department at Nantes University Hospital in Nantes, France, and was representative on an area in Western France “that is known for vaccine hesitancy.” According to Dr. Gras-Leguen, “vaccine hesitancy has resulted in suboptimal coverage regarding meningococcal C vaccine (MnC) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in the French county of Pasteur.”

The hesitancy to administer vaccines often leads to delays in the vaccination schedule or “untimely vaccinations” that occur after the recommended vaccination dates. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published a “catch-up schedule for infants and children who are more than 1 month behind on their vaccinations,” this altered schedule can result in altered doses and “impaired immunity in some cases.” Had the children included in the French study been vaccinated according to the regular schedules, the researchers posited that incidents of “vaccine-preventable COSBIs” may have been avoided.

Read more about the bacteria-related pediatric deaths in France, here.

#2: Zika Vaccine May Not Be Too Far Off, But at What Cost?

Those awaiting the development of reliable diagnostic testing for the Zika virus may not have much longer to wait. Royal Oak urology scientist Laura Lamb, PhD, and researchers from Beaumont Hospital in Michigan “have developed a ‘quick, simple test’ for the virus, where you ‘don’t even need a doctor.’” Indeed, this new test is able to detect the presence of Zika virus in a urine sample in as little as 30 minutes.

Although the test is currently still in the research phase, when speaking on the team’s findings, Dr. Lamb remarked in a press release, “We are currently working on developing a urine-based test that would allow for rapid and accurate detection of not only Zika, but also viruses such as Dengue, yellow fever, Chikungunya, and West Nile virus.”

Detecting the presence of the virus is only half the battle; researchers still need to create a vaccine to protect individuals from becoming infected with the Zika in the first place. Pharmaceutical companies and government research organizations alike are furiously working on developing a vaccine, but the process is not without controversy. Recently, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) “filed a patent appeal with the US Department of Defense” on the heels of recent reports that pharmaceutical giant Sanofi “declined the US Army’s request to lower Zika vaccine costs in the United States.” The vaccine would be sold exclusively by Sanofi, and thus, at the cost that they set.

Learn more about the diagnostic test for Zika and controversy surrounding Sanofi’s vaccine, here.

#1: Is the Medical Community Behind the Times When It Comes to Treating Lyme?

Lyme Disease Association President, Pat Smith, takes on the current major problems surrounding Lyme disease, in this commentary. Smith details how the ticks that cause Lyme disease have been found on 50% of continental US counties, and 19 human tick-borne diseases have been identified in the United States.

Smith goes on the tease out the problems healthcare professionals and patients face concerning Lyme disease today, including a continued “reliance upon dogma, promoting beliefs people are expected to accept without questioning or doubting.” She feels that practitioners continue to try and approach Lyme disease with a “cookbook” approach and that the disease is meant to be diagnosed clinically, with testing to be used as an “adjunct.”

The currently available Lyme clinical practice guidelines are outdated, says Smith, and not posted on the National Guidelines Clearinghouse (NGC). Their absence may actually help patients who need long-term antibiotic therapy, as this is not recommended in the current guidelines.

Other issues raised by Smith include the fact that not test exists for active Lyme disease infection. “Furthermore, the Lyme ELISA used for screening may not react with serum antibodies if at least a month has not elapsed between the tick bite and the test. If antibodies do develop, research in the Journal of the American Medical Association7 has shown that the antigen and the antibody produced by the patient can form a complex. Current commercial tests can only test for a free antibody, not an antibody in a complex, so patients can remain undiagnosed despite having produced antibodies.”

As more information continues to come to light about Borrelia burgdorferi, the main cause of Lyme disease in the United States, Smith is imploring the medical community to “avail itself on those scientific findings,” and “support further research on why some individuals remain sick.”

Read Pat Smith’s full commentary here.