Top 5 Contagion&reg News Articles for the Week of September 10, 2017

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

#5: HIV Infection Rates Remain High in Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals of Color in US

Many advancements have been seen in the fight against HIV in the past 35 years. Recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown that the work that the health care community has been doing has paid off, resulting in a 10% decrease in the number of new infections between 2010 and 2014. This might lead some to believe that the community should continue with the status quo in action, citing the adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, with a new political climate and much work that still needs to be done in the field, one pharmaceutical company, Gilead, is calling for an overall rethink of how the healthcare community is currently responding to the HIV epidemic.

Entitled, “REIMAGINE: Reset. Refuel. Retool,” the Gilead-sponsored Plenary Luncheon at the 21st Annual United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) in Washington, DC, on Friday, September 8, 2017 featured a myriad of speakers presenting their thoughts on how the community can reimagine its response.

One such speaker, Derrick Butler, MD, MPH, Associate Medical Director, from the T.H.E. Health and Wellness Centers who practices in South Central Los Angeles, California, focused his presentation on the individuals of color who are at highest risk of acquiring HIV.

Read more about Dr. Butler's presentation, here.

#4: Janssen Halts HCV Drug Development & Turns Efforts Towards Fighting HBV

Due to an increasing rate of available and effective therapies for hepatitis C virus hitting the market, Johnson & Johnson pharmaceuticals company Janssen announced a strategic decision to discontinue the development of the investigational HCV treatment, JNJ-4178, a triple-combination drug, consisting of three direct-acting antivirals (DAAs).

The drug in question — an amalgamation of AL-335, odalasvir and simeprevir — was undergoing phase 2 studies at the time of Janssen's decision.

Instead, the company's research and development efforts will be put towards fighting chronic hepatitis B (HBV), Lawrence M. Blatt, PhD, Janssen's Global Therapeutic Area Head of Infectious Disease Therapeutics, said. There are no medications currently available to treat acute HBV infection, which underscores the need for new, effective drugs to battle the virus.

Read more about Janssen's strategic decision, here.

#3: Where Will the Next Pandemic Threat Come From? Public Health Watch Report

In the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which ravaged Texas and Florida (as well as the Caribbean), respectively, wouldn’t it be nice to know what other threats could target our shores?

Well, when it comes to infectious disease pandemics, such knowledge can be a double-edged sword. True, to be forewarned is to be forearmed and “better the devil you know,” etc; but, increased awareness has also led to irrational panic. Think: the US media in the face of the Ebola crisis in 2015.

However, although such shrill reporting of the 3 cases of Ebola to hit North American shores back then led to much hand-wringing (and, to be fair, much-needed public health reform at the national level), actual data highlighting real potential future pandemic threats to the American people have received relatively scant attention in the press.

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

#2: On the Front Lines in the Fight for Antimicrobial Stewardship: The Importance of AST

Antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) and reporting for antimicrobials informs and optimizes prescribing and detects resistance.1 It also serves as an important component of hospital antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) efforts to combat urgent multidrug-resistant (MDR) Gram-negative infections. When facing a critically ill patient with a suspected Gram-negative bacterial infection, delayed appropriate therapy can be lethal. This represents a particular challenge with the rapid pace at which resistant Gram-negative organisms emerge and render our existing antimicrobial arsenal less effective. In addition, lack of information about the nature of the infection is a weak link that contributes to antimicrobial resistance through improper prescribing. AMS remains critical in the race against antimicrobial resistance.

The value that AST provides to clinicians to inform antimicrobial selection in support of AMS efforts cannot be overstated. The Joint Commission recently issued Standard MM.09.01.01, effective January 1, 2017, requiring hospitals, critical access hospitals, and nursing care centers to implement and prioritize AMS programs.2 The standard outlines core components that should be present in all AMS programs; calls for education of clinicians, staff, and patients about antimicrobial resistance and the appropriate use of antimicrobials; and requires that hospitals and nursing care centers collect, analyze, and report data on their AMS programs and use these data to improve them. However, the standard does not address the role of AST in AMS or the challenges surrounding AST. Thus, it misses a key element in rapidly identifying infectious organisms and selecting the appropriate antimicrobial agents for treatment.

Read more about AST, here.

#1: FDA Expert Advisory Panel Backs New Shingles Vaccine

Today, in a unanimous vote, a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expert advisory panel voted unanimously to back safety and efficacy trial data of Shingrix, a new herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine for older patients.

The advisory panel's 11-0 vote to support for this vaccine, developed by GlaxoSmithKline, comes over a month before the treatment's October 24, 2017 FDA (biologics license application) decision date.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in the United States, about one in every three individuals will develop shingles within their lifetime; in fact, it is estimated that 1 million cases of shingles occur annually in this country. The risk of devleoping shingles increases with age, but anyone who has recovered from chicken pox in the past could potentially develop the rash. Before the rash develops, individuals usually experience pain, itching, or tingling in the area where the rash will soon develop; the rash usually develops on one side of the face or body.

The vaccine's potential for approval jumps with the panel's backing, and has the potential to address a major gap in treatment.

Simon Murray, MD, an internist associated with the University Medical Center of Princeton, shared that about 50% of patients that receive the current shingles vaccine (Zostavax) still inherit the painful rash.

"Granted, they’re tenuated cases of shingles, but 50% of people who get that vaccine fail," Dr. Murray said. "And shingles is a big problem."

Shingrix is a non-live, recombinant vaccine for patients 50 years of age or over; it is an intramuscular injection of 2 doses, the second to be received in the second month of treatment. GSK's FDA application includes the results of 2 randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials that showed a 97.16% and 89.79% vaccination efficacy rate in patients.

Read more about Shingrix, here.