Top 5 Infectious Disease News of the Week—April 22, 2018

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

#5: New Findings on Zika in Semen May Change Recommendations on Preventing Sexual Transmission

A recent study investigating how long Zika virus lives in semen may bring changes to guidance on preventing sexual transmission of the virus, while another research team has found that post-natal Zika infection in infants may lead to brain damage and behavioral problems.

Zika virus transmission primarily occurs through bites from the Aedes species of mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue and chikungunya viruses. In addition, the virus can spread through sexual transmission, and from a mother to her unborn baby during pregnancy. While many individuals who catch Zika do not experience symptoms, signs of a Zika infection can include fever, rash, headache, and joint and muscle pain, and the virus has been linked to an increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome. Pregnant women can catch Zika from a mosquito bite or from the semen of an infected partner. Since Brazil’s Zika outbreak, which began in 2015, reported associated cases of microcephaly and other birth defects, public health officials have warned pregnant women of congenital Zika syndrome.

Read more about Zika.

#4: Positive Clinical Responses Reported for VIBATIV in Obese & Elderly Patients with cSSSIs

At the 28th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID), representatives from Theravance Biopharma, Inc. presented positive new data gleaned from multiple studies involving telavancin, otherwise known as VIBATIV.

First discovered through a research program dedicated to developing new drugs in response to the growing threat of resistant bacteria and the life-threatening infections that result from them, telavancin is the only once-daily in vitro bactericidal antibiotic approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of hospital-acquired bacterial pneumonia (HABP) and ventilator-associated bacterial pneumonia (VABP), or complicated skin and skin structure infections (cSSSI), including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA).

Read more about VIBATIV.

Read more coverage from the 28th annual ECCMID Conference.

#3: Risk of HIV/AIDS Among Transgender Individuals Remains High, as Testing Rates Are Still Low: Public Health Watch

Upon taking office in March, new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Robert Redfield, MD, set an ambitious goal for the agency’s staff, and health care professionals nationwide: ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the nation “in the next 3 to 7 years.”

In his remarks, as reported by The Hill on March 30th, Dr. Rosenfeld cited the advances made in therapeutics, including HIV prophylaxis, and the resources now widely available to at-risk populations, including condoms and screening programs. However, advocates within the HIV/AIDS arena note that significant challenges remain.

Among them: Addressing the incidence of the disease among transgender populations and encouraging those who identify as transgender to get tested.

Read the rest of the Public Health Watch.

#2: Researchers Discover How Norovirus Infections Begin

Norovirus is the biggest cause of acute gastroenteritis worldwide, and there is no antiviral drug or vaccine for the virus. In a new study, however, researchers have made a discovery on how norovirus infections begin in mice, a key finding which may help in the fight against the deadly virus.

Each year in the United States, norovirus causes as many as 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis, leading to up to 1.9 million outpatient visits, 400,000 emergency room visits, 71,000 hospitalizations, and 800 deaths. The highly contagious virus causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines, leading to nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Norovirus spreads through contaminated food, water, or surfaces, and through infected individuals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food can become contaminated with norovirus during growing, shipping, handling, and preparing; in fact, the virus causes about half of all outbreaks of food-related illness.

Read more about norovirus.

#1: Understanding Infectious Disease Risks Associated with Drug Diversion & How to Prevent Events

In the United States, drug abuse has become a serious issue, reaching epidemic proportions. In fact, it’s estimated that overdose is one of the leading causes of death in Americans who are under 50 years of age. As the number of drug abusers continues to increase, demand for prescription drugs also goes up, resulting in drug diversion.

Drug diversion, or tampering, is an issue in and of itself, but it arguably becomes even more serious when it happens in health care facilities. In these settings, drugs run the risk of being diverted at any point during the supply chain by staff who have easy access to controlled substances on a daily basis. As the opioid epidemic rages on, addiction to these prescription narcotics has become a major driver of drug diversion.

When health care staff choose to divert drugs for their own personal use, they put patients at increased risk of health care-associated infections, such as hepatitis C and other blood-borne infections, bacterial infections, and others. Drug diversion can also result in substandard care delivered by an impaired provider and the withholding of needed pain medications.

In a session at the SHEA Spring 2018 Conference in Portland Oregon, Kimberly New, a specialist in controlled substance security and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulatory compliance, shared with conference attendees how to investigate the infectious risks after a narcotic diversion event has occurred at their facilities as well as programs that can be put in place to prevent future events.

The first thing that she pointed out is that, terrifyingly enough, most facilities are not even aware that they have a diversion problem. “It doesn’t matter what kind of facility you are,” New stressed. “If you have controlled substances, you will have diversion.” Therefore, increased efforts need to be channeled into detection, response, and prevention.

Facilities need to assess their organizational awareness and find out how many cases have occurred at the facility and how they have been identified in the past. She reminded attendees that behavioral indicators are often late indicators. With the use of an automated dispensing cabinet, providers can discover diversion within a matter of weeks, and so, ideally, diversion should be detected long before behavioral indicators.

Read more about drug diversion.

Read more coverage from the SHEA Spring 2018 Conference.