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Top 5 Contagion® News Articles for the Week of October 15, 2017

Stay up-to-date on the latest infectious disease news by checking out our top 5 articles of the week.

#5: NIAID Director Stresses HIV Vaccine "Essential" for Ending HIV/AIDS Pandemic

Several advancements have been made in the fight against HIV, however, the pandemic persists. The treatment and prevention options that are available are very effective if adhered to, but are they enough to stop the pandemic?

In a recent commentary, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), says that from “a practical standpoint,” probably not. Rather, the development of a moderately effective HIV vaccine—coupled with the implementation of existing treatment and preventive modalities—is “essential” to ending the pandemic.

Read more about why an HIV vaccine is needed, here.

#4: Is the US Prepared for The Next Flu Pandemic?

In a recent Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) webcast, 2 experts discussed the pandemic potential of the most concerning flu epidemic circulating in China, and whether the United States is prepared for this threat.

According to Sonja J. Olsen, PhD, deputy chief, Epidemiology and Prevention Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, Georgia, seasonal flu is associated with a significant burden of disease in humans each year. In the United States alone, 9.2 million to 35.6 million cases of flu occur each year, causing 12,000 to 56,000 deaths.

“Understanding seasonal flu is necessary to understanding pandemics,” she said.

Read more about flu pandemic preparedness here.

#3: Threat of Zika Virus Still Looms in Southern States

On October 12, 2017, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) confirmed a case of locally-transmitted Zika virus in the state. This new case adds to the growing total of travel-related and undetermined cases in Florida, bringing the grand total to 188 statewide cases. The Manatee County case is believed to be an isolated case and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state there is no evidence to support active and ongoing transmission of the Zika virus.

According to the Florida DOH, this case involves a couple who had traveled to Cuba. One partner acquired the Zika virus in Cuba and returned home. Once home, a mosquito bit the infected partner and then bit the uninfected partner, transferring the virus to the other partner.

Read more about the Florida Zika case, here.

#2: Rare Infectious Disease Spreading in Puerto Rico: Public Health Watch Report

Federal assistance for Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria may not be around “forever,” but an infectious component of the storm's impact on the US territory may linger.

According to reports in multiple media outlets, including the Washington Post, clinicians on the storm-ravaged island have already identified at least 10 cases of leptospirosis, a water-borne infection. Given that as many as one-third of Puerto Rico's residents still do not have running water—some 4 weeks after Maria touched down—it is expected that more cases of the bacterial disease will emerge as residents have been forced to stand in line for access to communal water supplies. Leptospirosis is also spread via dogs and cats, livestock, and rodents—relevant considering a report by the SunshineStateNews.com, which suggests that garbage collection has not resumed on much of the island and that there have been sightings of dead animals in the streets in some areas.

Read more about leptospirosis, here.

#1: HIV Cure Research Receives Financial Leg-Up from Gilead Sciences

According to a press release issued by the biopharmaceutical giant, a second round of recipients will receive financial support towards their research on a cure for HIV. A total of 5 HIV cure research initiatives will receive $7.5 million as recipients of Gilead’s HIV cure grants program.

The following individuals and their organizations and corresponding projects will receive grants to help fund their activities:

  • Alexander Marson, MD, PhD, An Integrated CRISPR Platform to Discover Regulators of HIV Latency in Primary Human T Cells, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, Chan Zuckerberg Biohub
  • Monsef Benkirane, PhD, Paving the Way Towards Elimination of HIV Persistent CD4T Cell In Vivo, Institute of Human Genetics, French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and University of Montpellier
  • Abraham L. Brass, MD, PhD, A CRISPR/Cas9 Screen to Discover HIV-1 Latency Factors, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Jeffrey D. Lifson, MD, TLR Ligand Augmented, Tissue Homing AIDS Virus-Specific Adoptive Cell Therapy to Target Viral Reservoirs, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, AIDS and Cancer Virus Program
  • Joseph G. Sodroski, MD, Unlocking HIV-1 Env to Deplete Viral Reservoirs, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Read more about the grants, here.