Sunday, 17 April 2016

Concerns over the spread of untreatable multi-antimicrobial resistant gonorrhoea strain

There is a huge concern by health sector and Doctors in England over wide spread of untreatable multi-antimicrobial resistant gonorrhoea strain widely across England and to gay men.
The new superbug prompted a national alert last year shared in this blog (Read it here), as one of the main treatments had become useless against it. Public Health England acknowledges measures to contain the outbreak have been of limited success.
Doctors fear the sexually transmitted infection, which can cause infertility, could soon become untreatable. There are now cases of this resistant gonorrhoea in the West Midlands, London and southern England. Only 34 cases have been officially confirmed in laboratory testing, but this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg of an infection that can be symptomless.
The outbreak started in straight couples, but is now being seen in gay men too. A consultant in sexual health based in Bristol, Peter Greenhouse said that we’ve been worried it would spread to men who have sex with men which is what we have now. The problem is that they tend to spread infections a lot faster simply as they change partners more quickly. They are also more likely to have gonorrhoea in their throats. Further resistance is more likely to develop as antibiotics get to the throat in lower doses and the area is also teeming with other bacteria that can share the resistance to drugs.
The bacterium that causes gonorrhoea is extremely adept at shrugging off our best antibiotics. Two drugs - azithromycin and ceftriaxone - are used in combination, but now resistance to azithromycin is spreading and doctors fear it is only a matter of time before ceftriaxone fails too.

The disease is caused by the bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae and infection is spread by unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex. Of those infected, about one in 10 heterosexual men and more than three-quarters of women, and gay men, have no easily recognisable symptoms. But symptoms can include a thick green or yellow discharge from sexual organs, pain when urinating and bleeding between periods.
Untreated infection can lead to infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and can be passed on to a child during pregnancy.


Polio Vaccination: Vaccine switched in a bid towards ending polio

Over 150 countries have begun switching to a different polio vaccine which has been hailed by health campaigners as an important milestone towards polio eradication. The new vaccine will target the two remaining strains of the virus under a switchover 18 months in the planning. There were just 74 cases of the paralysing disease in 2015 and there have been 10 so far this year. All of the cases were in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Africa has been free of polio for more than a year. Switching the vaccine from one successfully used to fight polio for more than 30 years is a huge logistical exercise.
Thousands of people will monitor the changeover in 155 countries during the next fortnight. It is taking effect mainly in developing countries, but also in richer ones such as Russia and Mexico. The new vaccine will still be given as drops in the mouth, so healthcare workers will not need fresh training. It will no longer include a weakened version of type 2 polio virus, which was eradicated in 1999.
Dr Stephen Cochi, from the US-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said that the current vaccine contains live weakened virus relating to three types of polio. But we don't need the type 2 component, as it's not in the world any longer. And in very rare cases it can mutate and lead to polio, through what's called circulating vaccine-derived virus. So removing type 2 from the vaccine takes away that risk - and ensures we have a vaccine which will work better dose by dose.
The planning involved in the switchover has included dealing with a global stockpile of 100 million doses of vaccine targeting just type 2, built up as an insurance policy in case of any outbreak. The World Health Organization denied some media reports that millions of doses of the old vaccine would need to be destroyed, by incineration or other approved means. Its director of polio eradication, Michel Zaffran, said some will need to be destroyed, but this will be a few vials, not trucks full of vaccine. This has been carefully planned because of the huge amount of resources, so countries have been using up the old vaccine, to minimise leftover quantities. We're closer than ever to ending polio worldwide, which is why we are able to move forward with the largest and fastest globally synchronised vaccine switchover.


Sunday, 10 April 2016

PHE Update on rising Scarlet Fever across England

Group A streptococcus (GAS) on Blood Agar
Following the Public Health England (PHE) warning on the rise in cases of scarlet fever in England, they have reported a continued increase in cases of scarlet fever across England with 1319 new cases between 21 to 27 March. This is the highest weekly total recorded in recent decades (data available from 1982 onwards). Since the season began in September 2015, there have been a total of 10,570 reported cases of scarlet fever. Scarlet fever is a seasonal illness which should be treated with antibiotics and cases of the illness usually peak at this time of year.
An increase in invasive disease caused by the same bacterium Group A streptococcus (GAS) which causes scarlet fever has also been seen in England. A total of 593 cases of invasive Group A streptococcus infection, such and bloodstream infection or pneumonia, have been notified so far for 2016 compared to 440 cases for the same period last year (January to March). Group A streptococcus seasonal activity this year coincides with the seasonal influenza activity owing to the late flu season. Influenza and invasive Group A streptococcus co-infection is a rare but well-recognised occurrence. Whilst the elderly remain most at risk of invasive Group A streptococcus infection, increased levels of disease compared to last year have been seen in young adults and children less than 5 years old, the age groups most affected by influenza in recent weeks. There’s no suggestion of an increase in invasive Group A streptococcus infection in patients diagnosed with scarlet fever.
This is the third season in a row in which elevated scarlet fever activity has been noted. A total of 15,637 notifications were made in England and Wales in 2014, rising to 17,590 in 2015. Weekly activity so far this season has been similar or slightly above for that last year.
Group A streptococcus bacteria are spread by direct person-to-person contact with an individual carrying the bacteria or indirectly through contact with bacteria in the environment. The act of keeping wounds clean and practising hand hygiene can decrease chances of catching a Group A streptococcus infection.
Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, said that while we hope that the Easter school break will assist in slowing down transmission of the bacteria causing scarlet fever, we cannot assume or rely on this being the case. As such, our investigations and assessment of the impact of this extraordinary rise in scarlet fever continue.
As we reach peak season for scarlet fever, health practitioners should be particular mindful of the current high levels of scarlet fever when assessing patients. Close monitoring, rapid and decisive response to potential outbreaks and early treatment of scarlet fever with an appropriate antibiotic remains essential, especially given the potential complications associated with Group A streptococcal infections. PHE strongly urges people with symptoms of scarlet fever, which include a sore throat, headache and fever accompanied by a characteristic rash, to consult their GP. Scarlet fever should be treated with antibiotics to reduce risk of complications. Once children or adults are diagnosed with scarlet fever we strongly advise them to stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid passing on the infection.
Scarlet fever is mainly a childhood disease and is most common between the ages of 2 and 8 years. It was once a very dangerous infection, but has now become much less serious, thanks to the use of antibiotics. There is currently no vaccine for scarlet fever.
Below is the PHE regional breakdowns for scarlet fever seasonal activity in England between September and March (for 2014 to 2015, and 2015 to 2016; weeks 37 to 13)
Scarlet Fever Notifications
2014 – 2015 (weeks 37 – 13
2015 – 2016 (weeks 37 - 13)
Area name
Anglia and Essex
Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire
Cheshire and Merseyside
Cumbria and Lancashire
Devon, Cornwall and Somerset
East Midlands
Greater Manchester
Kent Surrey and Sussex
North East
South Midlands and Hertfordshire
Thames Valley
West Midlands
Yorkshire and Humber
Grand Total