Top Infectious Disease News of the Week—February 4, 2018

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

#5: Could Good Oral Hygiene Help Protect Against Flu?

As the United States continues to get hit hard by widespread flu activity in what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has deemed its most severe flu season since the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, health care practitioners continue to stress the importance of taking appropriate preventive measures.

It is well-known that one of the best preventive measures against the virus is to get vaccinated. Despite receiving backlash for not being effective enough, the current seasonal flu vaccine is still “a pretty darn good vaccine,” medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases William Schaffner, MD, told Contagion® in an interview.

Now, an Australian-based accredited dentist by the name of Dr. Steven Lin, notes that links between the immune system and oral hygiene suggest that practiced care for the mouth and teeth could potentially help individuals during flu season.

Read more about the potential connection between the immune system and oral hygiene, here.

#4: Oral Smallpox Treatment Gains FDA NDA Acceptance and Priority Review

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted SIGA Technologies, Inc's New Drug Application (NDA) for its oral formulation of the smallpox medication, tecovirimat (TPOXX). The treatment is a novel small molecule antiviral therapy for smallpox infection. The FDA has granted priority review to the application, which means that they should reach a decision in approximately 6 months. The target final action date is August 8, 2018.

Smallpox was deemed eradicated throughout the world in 1980 because of the availability of a protective vaccine; however, research on the highly contagious virus continues to this day given the potential for it to be used in biological warfare. Those individuals born after 1972, when the United States stopped routinely administering that vaccine, would be particularly vulnerable to an outbreak. Should SIGA's drug be approved, it will be the first treatment available for the deadly disease.

Read more about tecovirimat, here.

#3: FDA Approves Bictegravir for HIV-1

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Gilead Sciences, Inc.’s Biktarvy (bictegravir, emtricitabine, and tenofovir alafenamide), a tablet regimen to be taken once-daily for the treatment of HIV-1 infection.

“Biktarvy combines the novel, unboosted integrase strand transfer inhibitor (INSTI) bictegravir, with the demonstrated safety and efficacy profile of the Descovy (FTC/TAF) dual nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) backbone, and is the smallest INSTI-based triple-therapy STR available,” according to a recent press release.

The regimen is indicated for the treatment of adults with HIV-1 with no history of antiretroviral therapy (ART) or as a replacement for a current antiretroviral regimen in adults who achieved virologic suppression (with HIV-1 RNA less than 50 copies per mL) who were on a stable ART regimen for at least 3 months without any history of treatment failure, and with “no known substitutions associated with resistance to the individual components of Biktarvy,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ letter.

Read more about Biktarvy, here.

#2: ACIP Releases Updated Adult Immunization Scheduled Recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has voted to approve the updated vaccination recommendations for adults 19 years of age or older for 2018.

Changes to the schedule include new recommendations for the use of recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV) for adults over 50 years of age as well as giving an additional dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine when in an outbreak setting, according to the new paper.

RZV, GlaxoSmithKline’s Shingrix vaccine, received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of adults aged 50 or over to prevent herpes zoster, or shingles, along with its complications.

Read more about the updated recommendations, here.

#1: Antibiotic First Discovered Decades Ago May Stop Resistant Superbugs

With bacterial pathogens growing increasingly resistant to available drugs and few new antibiotics in the pipeline, a new study on an antibiotic not used since its discovery more than 4 decades ago offers hope in the fight against superbugs.

Since antibiotics first came into use more than 70 years ago, many of the bacteria these drugs are designed to target have developed antibiotic resistance, leading to an increasing number of hard-to-treat infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that there are 2 million antibiotic-resistant infections resulting in 23,000 deaths in the United States each year due to these superbugs. Today, about 1 out of every 3 antibiotic prescriptions given to patients are inappropriately prescribed for viral or other infections, and a study published in 2016 by the CDC and Pew Charitable Trusts found that doctors are too often prescribing the wrong antibiotic. That study concluded that only 52% of the 44 million antibiotic prescriptions given for sinus infections, middle ear infections, and pharyngitis were for the first-line drugs recommended based on established guidelines.

In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report suggesting that there is a serious lack of new antibiotics in development, underscoring that antibiotic resistance is a global health emergency set to undermine decades of progress in modern medicine. The problem of colistin resistance has contributed to more multidrug-resistant (MDR) and even extensively drug-resistant (XDR) bacteria no longer treatable with what is considered a last-resort antibiotic. Now, a new study published in the journalCell Chemical Biology is adding evidence to suggest that octapeptins, not used since their discovery decades ago, are effective against XDR pathogens no longer susceptible to colistin.

Read the rest of this week’s top article, here.