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Weekly Digest: “Strong scientific consensus” Zika causes microcephaly, Guillain-Barré

Weekly Digest: “Strong scientific consensus” Zika causes microcephaly, Guillain-Barré
A weekly roundup of news on drug resistance and other topics in global health.
The Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (PACCARB) released a 6-month progress report at a public meeting this week. CDDEP Director Ramanan Laxminarayan is a voting member of the Council and chair of the working group on international collaboration. PACCARB called for additional funding to combat antibiotic resistance, and a dedicated top-level government official to focus on leading the charge in the United States. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Geographic]
Will Zika plague the Olympics? The virus may not have many immediate effects on athletes and attendees of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but could spread worldwide after they return to their home countries, writes CDDEP Research Analyst Elena Martinez in a post on the CDDEP blog. The World Health Organization declared Thursday that there is now a “strong scientific consensus” that infection with Zika virus causes the birth defect microcephaly and neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome. [CDDEP, Reuters]
CDDEP Director Ramanan Laxminarayan will deliver the 2016 John Ring LaMontagne Memorial Lecture at the U.S. National Institutes of Health on “The State of the World’s Antibiotics.” The lecture will take place in the Lipsett Amphitheater in Building 10 on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland from 3-4 pm on Tuesday April 5. [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases]
“Most of the farmers didn’t know what an antibiotic was, describing it as just one of the vitamins, medicines and disinfectants they use to keep the birds healthy,” write Natalie Obiko Pearson and Sharang Limaye in Bloomberg News about farmers dosing chickens with antibiotics in India. The authors investigated antibiotic resistance and livestock antibiotic use in India, and cited CDDEP’s estimate that global animal antibiotic use will rise 67 percent by 2030 if the current trajectory holds. One companion article focused on discrepancies between fast food and chicken production companies’ public statements and policies on antibiotic use and what is actually occurring on Indian farms. A second focused on the death of an infant from a colistin-resistant bacterial infection, and the recent discovery of the MCR-1colistin resistance gene, which some researchers have tied to use of the drug on farms. [Bloomberg, CDDEP, Bloomberg, Bloomberg]
A long course of antibiotics does not increase Lyme disease patients’ quality of life, according to research published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers conducted a double-blind trial in the Netherlands with more than 2,000 Lyme disease patients. They treated all patients for two weeks with ceftriaxone, then randomly administered one of three treatments twice daily for 12 weeks: 1) doxycycline plus placebo, 2) clarithromycin plus hydroxychloroquine or 3) two placebos. After treatment, they assessed physical functioning, role limitations due to physical health issues, pain and general health perceptions. They found no significant differences in outcome among the three groups. [New England Journal of Medicine, CIDRAP]
More than 2 million doses of outdated or improperly stored vaccines were sold to consumers in China. WHO has urged the Chinese government to take regulatory action to protect these childhood vaccines after a sluggish response—the scandal was revealed a year ago. Twenty-nine pharmaceutical companies and 15 health departments have been implicated in the $90 million in sales, and scores of criminal cases brought. The vaccines are those not required for all infants, but include things like chicken pox and hepatitis A. [The Economist]
Completed pneumococcal vaccinations and breastfeeding in the first year of life are linked to a decline in infant ear infections. Reporting in Pediatrics, researchers assessed records of 367 infants and found that those who were breastfed had a reduced risk of developing upper respiratory tract and ear infections—the leading indications for antibiotic prescriptions in infants. Finally, they found that children who received a newer version of the pneumococcal vaccine, released in 2010, were slightly less likely to contract an ear infection. [Reuters, Pediatrics]
Different species of gut bacteria evolve quickly to compete with each other—sometimes to the benefit of their human hosts. Scientists at the University of Oxford infected roundworms with either Enterococcus or Staphylococcus bacteria, and noted that Enterococcus killed about one percent of the worms, while Staph killed about half of them. The researchers then infected worms with both bacteria at once, and found that competition between the two species protected the worms from Staph somewhat, reducing death rate to 18 percent. They then removed the Enterococcus from the worms, grew the bacterium outside of the worm host, and re-infected a new generation of genetically identical worms with the cultured Enterococcus and the original Staph. At the end of 15 such cycles, less than one percent of the worms died, indicating that the evolved Enterococcus had become even more effective worm protectors. According to study author Kayla King, “We’ve taken a very reductive approach. In the future, we want to understand how these interactions play out in a much more diverse community.” [National Geographic, ISME Journal]
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