Pathogens such as MERS-CoV, influenza A/H5N1 and influenza A/H7N9 are currently generating sporadic clusters of spillover human cases from animal reservoirs. The lack of a clear human epidemic suggests that the basic reproductive number R0 is below or very close to one for all three infections. However, robust cluster-based estimates for low R0 values are still desirable so as to help prioritise scarce resources between different emerging infections and to detect significant changes between clusters and over time. We developed an inferential transmission model capable of distinguishing the signal of human-to-human transmission from the background noise of direct spillover transmission (e.g. from markets or farms). By simulation, we showed that our approach could obtain unbiased estimates of R0, even when the temporal trend in spillover exposure was not fully known, so long as the serial interval of the infection and the timing of a sudden drop in spillover exposure were known (e.g. day of market closure). Applying our method to data from the three largest outbreaks of influenza A/H7N9 outbreak in China in 2013, we found evidence that human-to-human transmission accounted for 13% (95% credible interval 1%–32%) of cases overall. We estimated R0 for the three clusters to be: 0.19 in Shanghai (0.01-0.49), 0.29 in Jiangsu (0.03-0.73); and 0.03 in Zhejiang (0.00-0.22). If a reliable temporal trend for the spillover hazard could be estimated, for example by implementing widespread routine sampling in sentinel markets, it should be possible to estimate sub-critical values of R0 even more accurately. Should a similar strain emerge with R0>1, these methods could give a real-time indication that sustained transmission is occurring with well-characterised uncertainty.
An outbreak of PVL-positive MSSA skin and soft tissue-infections (SSTIs) was suspected in May 2010 when recurrent SSTI was diagnosed in an inmate of a large prison in Nantes, France.
Methods and findings.
Retrospective and prospective investigations were performed. Microbiological characterisation was by DNA microarray testing (S. aureus genotyping – Identibac, Alere). We identified 14 inmates meeting our clinical and microbiological case definition for PVL-MSSA SSTI between March 2010 and April 2011. The SSTIs developed in tattooed areas in 4 patients and in areas shaved daily with a mechanical razor in 4 other patients. All case isolates exhibited a similar SmaI pulsed-field gel electrophoresis pattern. Microarray analysis showed that all 14 isolates harboured genes encoding PVL and enterotoxins (A, H, K, and Q) and belonged to clonal complex 1 (CC1). Individual and collective hygiene measures, education delivered to inmates and prison employees, and antibiotic treatment of SSTIs were successful in controlling the outbreak. No new cases were identified after April 2011. Routine screening for PVL-positive MSSA carriage was not feasible.
Our data suggest that tattooing and shaving with mechanical razors may constitute risk factors for SSTIs among previously colonised inmates and contribute to the PVL-MSSA outbreak in the prison. Allowing inmates access to professional tattooists and to the hygiene and safety conditions available to people in the community would help to prevent tattoo-related infections.
We have identified environmental and demographic variables, available in January, that predict the relative magnitude and spatial distribution of West Nile virus (WNV) for the following summer. The yearly magnitude and spatial distribution for WNV incidence in humans in the United States (US) have varied wildly in the past decade. Mosquito control measures are expensive and having better estimates of the expected relative size of a future WNV outbreak can help in planning for the mitigation efforts and costs. West Nile virus is spread primarily between mosquitoes and birds; humans are an incidental host. Previous efforts have demonstrated a strong correlation between environmental factors and the incidence of WNV. A predictive model for human cases must include both the environmental factors for the mosquito-bird epidemic and an anthropological model for the risk of humans being bitten by a mosquito. Using weather data and demographic data available in January for every county in the US, we use logistic regression analysis to predict the probability that the county will have at least one WNV case the following summer. We validate our approach and the spatial and temporal WNV incidence in the US from 2005 to 2013. The methodology was applied to forecast the 2014 WNV incidence in late January 2014. We find the most significant predictors for a county to have a case of WNV to be the mean minimum temperature in January, the deviation of this minimum temperature from the expected minimum temperature, the total population of the county, publicly available samples of local bird populations, and if the county had a case of WNV the previous year.
Stemming from the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti, cholera transmission in Hispaniola continues with over 40,000 cases in 2013. The presence of an ongoing cholera outbreak in the region poses substantial risks to countries throughout the Americas, particularly in areas with poor infrastructure. Since September 9, 2013 nearly 200 cholera cases have been reported in Mexico, as a result of introductions from Hispaniola or Cuba. There appear to have been multiple introductions into Mexico resulting in outbreaks of 2 to over 150 people. Using publicly available data, we attempt to estimate the reproductive number (R) of cholera in Mexico, and thereby assess the potential of continued introductions to establish a sustained epidemic. We estimate R for cholera in Mexico to be between 0.8 to 1.1, depending on the number of introductions, with the confidence intervals for the most plausible estimates crossing 1. These results suggest that the efficiency of cholera transmission in some regions of Mexico is near that necessary for a large epidemic. Intensive surveillance, evaluation of water and sanitation infrastructure, and planning for rapid response are warranted steps to avoid potential large epidemics in the region.
The incidence of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in Great Britain has generally been increasing in recent decades. Routine ante-mortem testing of cattle herds is required for disease surveillance and control, due to the asymptomatic nature of the infection. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) publishes TB incidence trends as the percentage of officially TB-free (OTF) herds tested per month with OTF status withdrawn due to post-mortem evidence of infection. This method can result in artefactual fluctuations. We have previously demonstrated an alternative method, that distributes incidents equally over the period of risk, provides a more accurate representation of underlying risk. However, this method is complex and it may not be sufficiently straightforward for use in the national statistics. Here we present a simple incidence-based method that adjusts for the time between tests and show it can provide a reasonable representation of the underlying risk without artefactual fluctuations.
The emergence of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the eastern Mediterranean and imported cases to Europe has alerted public health authorities. Currently, detection of MERS-CoV in patient samples is done by real-time RT-PCR. Samples collected from suspected cases are sent to highly-equipped centralized laboratories for screening. A rapid point-of-care test is needed to allow more widespread mobile detection of the virus directly from patient material. In this study, we describe the development of a reverse transcription isothermal Recombinase Polymerase Amplification (RT-RPA) assay for the identification of MERS-CoV. A partial nucleocapsid gene RNA molecular standard of MERS-coronavirus was used to determine the assay sensitivity. The isothermal (42°C) MERS-CoV RT-RPA was as sensitive as real-time RT-PCR (10 RNA molecules), rapid (3-7 minutes) and mobile (using tubescanner weighing 1kg). The MERS-CoV RT-RPA showed cross-detection neither of any of the RNAs of several coronaviruses and respiratory viruses affecting humans nor of the human genome. The developed isothermal real-time RT-RPA is ideal for rapid mobile molecular MERS-CoV monitoring in acute patients and may also facilitate the search for the animal reservoir of MERS-CoV.
A novel coronavirus, MERS-CoV (NCoV, HCoV-EMC/2012), originating from the Middle-East, has been discovered. Incoming data reveal that the virus is highly virulent to humans. A model that categorizes coronaviuses according to the hardness of their shells was developed before the discovery of MERS-CoV. Using protein intrinsic disorder prediction, coronaviruses were categorized into three groups that can be linked to the levels of oral-fecal and respiratory transmission regardless of genetic proximity. Using this model, MERS-CoV is placed into disorder group C, which consists of coronaviruses that have relatively hard inner and outer shells. The members of this group are likely to persist in the environment for a longer period of time and possess the highest oral-fecal components but relatively low respiratory transmission components. Oral-urine and saliva transmission are also highly possible since both require harder protective shells. Results show that disorder prediction can be used as a tool that suggests clues to look for in further epidemiological investigations.
Background: Between September 2012 and 22 October 2013, 144 laboratory-confirmed and 17 probable MERS-CoV cases from nine countries were notified to WHO.
Methods: We summarize what is known about the epidemiology, virology, phylogeny and emergence of MERS-CoV to inform public health policies.
Results: The median age of patients (n=161) was 50 years (range 14 months to 94 years), 64.5% were male and 63.4% experienced severe respiratory disease. 76.0% of patients were reported to have ≥1 underlying medical condition and fatal cases, compared to recovered or asymptomatic cases were more likely to have an underlying condition (86.8% vs. 42.4%, p<0.001). Analysis of genetic sequence data suggests multiple independent introductions into human populations and modelled estimates using epidemiologic and genetic data suggest R0 is <1, though the upper range of estimates may exceed 1. Index/sporadic cases (cases with no epidemiologic-link to other cases) were more likely to be older (median 59.0 years vs. 43.0 years, p<0.001) compared to secondary cases, although these proportions have declined over time. 80.9% vs. 67.2% of index/sporadic and secondary cases, respectively, reported ≥1 underlying condition. Clinical presentation ranges from asymptomatic to severe pneumonia with acute respiratory distress syndrome and multi-organ failure. Nearly all symptomatic patients presented with respiratory symptoms and 1/3 of patients also had gastrointestinal symptoms.
Conclusions: Sustained human-to-human transmission of MERS-CoV has not been observed. Outbreaks have been extinguished without overly aggressive isolation and quarantine suggesting that transmission of virus may be stopped with implementation of appropriate infection control measures.
The role of badgers in the transmission and maintenance of bovine tuberculosis (TB) in British cattle is widely debated as part of the wider discussions on whether badger culling and/or badger vaccination should play a role in the government’s strategy to eradicate cattle TB. The key source of information on the contribution from badgers within high-cattle-TB-incidence areas of England is the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), with two analyses providing estimates of the average overall contribution of badgers to confirmed cattle TB in these areas. A dynamical model characterizing the association between the estimated prevalence of Mycobacterium bovis (the causative agent of bovine TB) among badgers culled in the initial RBCT proactive culls and the incidence among sympatric cattle herds prior to culling is used to estimate the average overall contribution of badgers to confirmed TB herd breakdowns among proactively culled areas. The resulting estimate based on all data (52%) has considerable uncertainty (bootstrap 95% confidence interval (CI): 9.1-100%). Separate analyses of experimental data indicated that the largest estimated reduction in confirmed cattle TB achieved inside the proactive culling areas was 54% (overdispersion-adjusted 95% CI: 38-66%), providing a lower bound for the average overall contribution of badgers to confirmed cattle TB. Thus, taking into account both results, the best estimate of the average overall contribution of badgers is roughly half, with 38% being a robustly estimated lower bound. However, the dynamical model also suggested that only 5.7% (bootstrap 95% CI: 0.9-25%) of the transmission to cattle herds is badger-to-cattle with the remainder of the average overall contribution from badgers being in the form of onward cattle-to-cattle transmission. These estimates, confirming that badgers do play a role in bovine TB transmission, inform debate even if they do not point to a single way forward.
Some parts of world, including India observed a recrudescent wave of influenza A/H1N1pdm09 in 2012. We undertook a study to examine the circulating influenza strains, their clinical association and antigenic characteristics to understand the recrudescent wave of A/H1N1pdm09 from November 26, 2012 to Feb 28, 2013 in Kashmir, India. Of the 751 patients (545 outpatient and 206 hospitalized) presenting with acute respiratory infection at a tertiary care hospital in Srinagar; 184 (24.5%) tested positive for influenza. Further type and subtype analysis revealed that 106 (58%) were influenza A (H1N1pdm09 =105, H3N2=1) and 78 (42%) were influenza B. The influenza positive cases had a higher frequency of chills, nasal discharge, sore throat, body aches and headache, compared to influenza negative cases. Of the 206 patients hospitalized for pneumonia/acute respiratory distress syndrome or an exacerbation of an underlying lung disease, 34 (16.5%) tested positive for influenza (22 for H1N1pdm09, 11 for influenza B). All influenza-positive patients received oseltamivir and while most patients responded well to antiviral therapy and supportive care, 6 patients (4 with H1N1pdm09 and 2 with influenza B) patients died of progressive respiratory failure and multi-organ dysfunction. Following a period of minimal circulation, H1N1pdm09 re-emerged in Kashmir in 2012-2013, causing serious illness and fatalities. As such the healthcare administrators and policy planners need to be wary and monitor the situation closely.