Top 5 Infectious Disease News for November 2017


We break down the Top 5 infectious disease news reported by Contagion® for the month of November 2017.

#5: Uganda Battling Deadly Marburg Outbreak

Although the Ebola virus outbreaks that have plagued countries in Africa may be our most recent hemorrhagic fever memory, a cousin within the filovirus family is starting to cause concern in Uganda. Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever, a rare, but serious virus, is a zoonotic disease in which outbreaks are frequently triggered by interaction with the African fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus. Primates can also become infected with Marburg, but, the Rousettus bat is the reservoir for the virus and it can easily transmit the disease by way of its significant geographical distribution.

Marburg first found itself on our infectious diseases radar in 1967 because of a series of simultaneous outbreaks in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt Germany, as well as Belgrade, Serbia. Over 30 individuals became ill in these laboratory incidents. An epidemiological investigation found that the first few cases were a result of exposure to imported African green monkeys or their tissue during laboratory research. The virus is typically transmitted from animals to humans, and then spread between humans through direct contact with droplets of body fluids or contact with contaminated equipment, etc. Hospitals and immediate caregivers in the infected individual’s home can be sources of transmission.

Read more about the Marburg outbreak in Uganda, here.

#4: Improving Diagnosis of Lyme Disease: Laboratory and Clinical Approaches

Diagnostic testing for Lyme disease is challenging because of the low sensitivity of currently approved laboratory tests, the broad spectrum of clinical presentations, and differences in how clinicians interpret findings. Therefore, diagnosis may be optimized with a careful assessment of risk factors for exposure and the patient’s pattern of symptoms, according to experts who participated in a Contagion® Peer Exchange panel.

The panelists also discussed novel technologies that could improve the sensitivity and specificity of laboratory-based diagnostic testing for Lyme disease, particularly in early-stage infections, but stated that mainstream adoption of these tests may be slow due to the reluctance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other governing organizations to adopt new methods.

Continue reading about laboratory and clinical approaches to improve the diagnosis of Lyme disease, here.

#3: Undetectable=Untransmittable: A Message That Needs Pushing

This message is key when it comes to encouraging individuals to get tested and adhere to a medication regimen if they are HIV positive. A statement issued by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention on September 27, 2017, National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, asserted that 61% of gay and bisexual men living with diagnosed HIV are virally suppressed (per a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report). Of course, many individuals with HIV remain undiagnosed. And, for the 39% who are diagnosed but not virally suppressed, barriers to treatment may need to be overcome, including social stigma along with lower income and education levels.

The CDC is taking steps to increase the rates of viral suppression in individuals who are living with HIV. These steps include funding local health departments and community-based organizations (CBOs) that can provide testing and prevention services; promoting the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP); and launching prevention and treatment campaigns. “CDC encourages public and private stakeholders to implement interventions that increase retention in HIV care and viral suppression,” the organization wrote in its statement. “In addition, partners such as health departments, CBOs, and others can help address stigma and discrimination—using the resources of the Act Against AIDS campaign, Let’s Stop HIV Together, for example—and extend the reach of their HIV prevention and testing services that focus on gay and bisexual men.”

Learn more about Undetectable=Untransmittable, here.

#2: Is There an Association Between Lyme Disease and Suicidality?

Robert Bransfield, MD, DLFAPA, private practice, Psychiatry, in Red Bank, New Jersey, explains the potential correlation between Lyme and associated diseases and suicidality.

Watch the full video from Dr. Bransfield, here.

#1: Drug-Resistant Strain of Gonorrhea Spreads to North America

The incidence of drug-resistant gonorrhea infections has grown in the past several years; however, the majority of these infections have been reported outside of North America. Until now. According to a recent dispatch from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a drug-resistant strain of Neisseria gonorrhoeae (N. gonorrhoeae ) was found in Canada this year.

As Contagion® reported in July 2017, gonorrhea, a sexually-transmitted disease caused by N. gonorrhoeae bacteria, is on its way to becoming untreatable. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance Programme (WHO GASP), an estimated 78 million individuals are infected with gonorrhea on an annual basis, and the number of cases that are resistant to currently available antibiotics continues to grow. Teodora Wi, MD, Medical Officer, Human Reproduction at WHO, explained in a news release, “The bacteria that cause gonorrhea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them.”

Read more about the spread of a drug-resistant strain of gonorrhea, here.

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