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Top 5 Contagion® News Articles for the Week of October 29, 2017

In case you missed them, we've compiled the top five infectious disease articles from this past week.

#5: How is Pharma Tackling Antibiotic Resistance? Public Health Watch Report

We are entering the “antibiotic apocalypse.”

At least that’s the phrase used by England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, DBE, FMedSci, FRS, to describe the current situation regarding the growing problem of resistance. Dr. Davies made the comment in response to findings, initially presented at the American Society of Microbiology’s annual meeting and published in February in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy(AAC), that bacteria containing the gene MCR-1 confers resistance to the antibiotic colistin.

As the authors of the AAC paper note, colistin is generally considered an “antibiotic of last resort,” and the discovery of the resistance conferred by the MCR-1 gene could mean that routine surgical procedures and hospitalizations would suddenly become fraught with peril due to the increased risk for resistant infections.

Read the rest of the Public Health Watch Report, here.

#4: FDA Clears 3 Antimicrobial Susceptibility Tests to Guide Appropriate Use of Baxdela

This week, Melinta Therapeutics announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared 3 antimicrobial susceptibility tests (ASTs) that will help health care practitioners use its new fluoroquinolone Baxdela, appropriately.

Baxdela (delafloxacin) was recently approved by the FDA for the treatment of acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections (ABSSSI) in adults, and is available in both tablet, 450 mg, and intravenous, 300 mg, formulations; it can be dosed for 5 to 14 days, twice daily.

The 3 cleared ASTs are: Hardy Diagnostics’ Delafloxacin Antimicrobial Susceptibility Disk (HardyDisk), Liofilchem Delafloxacin MIC Test Strip (MTS), and Thermo Scientific Sensititre MIC System.

Read more about the ASTs, here.

#3: Continuing the Fight Against Gram-Negative Infections: The New Agents—Part I

Antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) organisms, particularly Gram-negative bacteria, present a critical threat and a substantial burden. In the United States alone, these organisms account for more than 2 million infections, 23,000 deaths, and $2 billion in excess medical spending per year.1 In February of this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its list of Priority 1, critical organisms to include carbapenem-resistant and extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs), carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), carbapenem-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii. Other Gram-negative bacteria, including bacteria that produce Klebsiella pneumonia carbapenemase (KPC), bacteria with plasmid-mediated resistance to carbapenems, and bacteria with plasmid-mediated resistance to colistin, pose increasing threats. It is not surprising, then, that AMR Gram-negative infections, and antimicrobial agents that target them, received a large amount of attention the 2017 ASM Microbe conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Read more about new agents to fight gram-negative infections, here.

#2: New Biosecurity Threats Appear in Less Familiar Forms

Infectious diseases pose a threat from multiple avenues—naturally occurring events such as outbreaks, accidental incidents like lab errors, and intentional acts of bioterrorism. Globalization, growing populations, and increasing encroachment of humans onto animal habitats have increased the risk of spillover and natural outbreaks. From the laboratory side, the threat is a mixture of biosecurity and biosafety. Biosecurity measures are those that seek to protect the organisms from nefarious actors, while biosafety practices look to protect investigators (or the public) from accidental exposures. The Ebola outbreak in 2014 and 2015, the Zika virus epidemic of 2015 and 2016, findings of smallpox vials in National Institutes of Health laboratory freezers in 2014, and continual lab errors involving mishandling and shipping of live select agents all highlight the threat of natural and accidental events. Although these recent occurrences have reinforced the need for preventive and responsive measures, the threat of bioterrorism can seem a bit distant; however, with advances in biotechnology and global travel, we must remain vigilant.

#1: Could a Centuries-Old Ritual Increase the Spread of Plague in Madagascar?

Things may be looking up when it comes to the plague outbreak that has been ravaging Madagascar.

The latest External Situation Report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that the number of new cases of pneumonic plague continues to decline in number in active areas throughout the country. However, speculation has risen that a centuries-old tradition may increase the risk of the outbreak spreading.

The tradition in question is called famadihana, and, according to Newsweek, it’s also referred to as “the turning of the bones” or “body turning.” In past coverage, CNN delved into the ritual, performed by the Merina tribe in Madagascar’s central highlands.

“In this sacred ritual, which occurs every 5 to 7 years, a number of deceased relatives are removed from an ancestral crypt,” according to CNN. “Living family members carefully peel the burial garments off the corpses and wrap them in fresh silk shrouds.” Then, those involved in the ritual dance with the corpses of their forebears, according to anthropologist Dr. Miora Mamphionona. At the end of the ritual, the bodies are placed back in their tombs and turned upside down.

“If a person dies of pneumonic plague and is then interred in a tomb that is subsequently opened for a famadihana, the bacteria can still be transmitted and contaminate whoever handles the body, “chief of staff in Madagascar’s health ministry Willy Randriamarotia, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Read more about the plague outbreak in Madagascar, here.