New Species Behind Leprosy?

There have been discussions on the role of a novel species of Mycobacterium, M. lepromatosis, in the causation of Leprosy for a long time now. In 2008, Han and colleagues (1) found the novel bacterium as the causative organism behind diffuse lepromatous leprosy. A new paper (2) published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has further strengthened the premise of a novel species causing leprosy by conducting a whole genome study.

The concept that Mycobaterium leprae is the only causative organism behind the disfiguring disease which has almost been eliminated from many parts of the world, now stands challenged by the emergence of this new evidence. The contribution of this new species to the overall case load and what implications it holds for public health approaches to control the disease in the long run needs to be reexamined.
The new paper, by Singha et al, has isolated Mycobacterium lepromatosis from the skin lesions of a patient suffering from diffuse lepromatous leprosy and has conducted a whole genome sequencing, followed by comparison with that of the Mycobacterium leprae, to establish the unique identities of the two different organisms.

References:

1. Han XY, Seo YH, Sizer KC, Schoberle T, May GS, Spencer JS, Li W, Nair RG. A new _Mycobacterium_ species causing diffuse lepromatous leprosy. Am J Clin Pathol. 2008 Dec;130(6):856-64. doi: 10.1309/AJCPP72FJZZRRVMM.
2. Singha P, Benjaka A, Schuenemannb VJ, Herbigb A, et al. Insight into the evolution and origin of leprosy bacilli from the genome sequence of Mycobacterium lepromatosis. PNAS. March 18, 2015. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1421504112.

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Meningitis Epidemic in Niger Claims 75 Lives

A meningococcal meningitis (caused by Neisseria meningitidis) outbreak in Niger, which started in January this year, has kept gaining momentum. Currently, the numbers of cases in the country stands at 697, with 75 deaths attributed to this disease. A previous report stated that it had affected 345 people between January 1 to March 29 of this year, and of those, 45 people had died. The increasing numbers point to the trend that the disease is increasingly spreading through the susceptible people in the community.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Niger, which is one of the poorest nations in the world, is prone to frequent epidemics of meningococcal meningitis because of its position in the meningitis belt, stretching from Senegal from the west to Ethiopia in the east.
Vaccinations are the primary mode of controlling the spread of the epidemic by inducing immunity in the susceptible population. Over 13,500 doses of the vaccine has been distributed as part of a vaccination campaign that is being launched to combat the epidemic. More vaccines will be deployed once the campaign is moving.

 

Salmonella enteritidis Outbreak in Liverpool

An outbreak of Salmonella enteritidis has reportedly taken place in Liverpool, at the Kirkby takeaway, Woks Cooking. According to the report published in the Liverpool Echo, the outbreak has been linked with infected german eggs and improper maintenance of hygiene in the kitchen. This food outlet has had a history of run ins with the health authorities as it was shut down in July last year, only to be re-opened under new management the very next month.

The current outbreak has been associated with the use of German eggs, which have also been implicated in other outbreaks elsewhere. Salmonellosis is usually spread from fecal contamination of eggs, but this current crop of cases attributed to this single source has also been seen in consumers Grade A eggs, which are clean and do not have any cracks or other ways of getting contaminated. It is believed that the infection had occurred during ovulation and may have been cloistered within as the eggshell formed.

Swine Brucella Risk While Hunting Feral Hogs

The Alabama feral hog hunting trend has increased over the past year, and with larger number of people getting involved in handling the wild hog once it has been killed, the risks of contracting Swine Brucella is on the rise. Swine Brucella is caused by the bacterium Brucella suis and is usually contracted while handling an infected hog without proper precautions.

The CDC has recommended the following pointers to be kept in mind to prevent contracting this disease:

  • Use clean, sharp knives for field dressing and butchering.
  • Wear eye protection and rubber or latex gloves when handling carcasses.
  • Avoid direct contact of bare skin with fluid or organs from the animal.
  • After butchering, burn or bury disposable gloves and parts of the carcass that will not be eaten.
  • Avoid feeding raw meat or other parts of the carcass to dogs.
  • Wash hands as soon as possible with soap and warm water for 20 seconds or more.
  • Dry hands with a clean cloth.
  • Clean all tools and reusable gloves with a disinfectant, such as diluted bleach.
  • Thoroughly cook the meat.
  • Be aware that freezing, smoking, drying and pickling do not kill the bacteria that cause brucellosis.

Novel Tick-Borne Anaplasma Maybe Transmitted to Human from Infected Goats

A new study from China, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, contends that a novel, tick-borne Anaplasmosis maybe transmitted from infected goats to human beings in contact. The abstract of the study is given below:

Summary

Background

Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Anaplasma ovis cause human infections. We investigated the potential for human pathogenicity of a newly discovered Anaplasma species infecting goats in China.

Methods

We collected blood samples from patients with a history of tick bite in the preceding 2 months at Mudanjiang Forestry Central Hospital of Heilongjiang Province from May 1, to June 10, 2014, to detect the novel Anaplasma species by PCR. We inoculated positive samples into cell cultures. We characterised the isolated pathogen by morphological and phylogenetic analyses. We tested serum antibodies by indirect immunofluorescence assay.

Findings

28 (6%) of 477 patients assessed were infected with the novel Anaplasma species according to PCR and sequencing. We isolated the pathogen in vitro from three patients. Phylogenetic analyses of rrs, gltA, groEL, msp2, and msp4 showed that the pathogen was distinct from all known Anaplasmaspecies. We provisionally nominate it “Anaplasma capra”. 22 (92%) of 24 patients with data available had seroconversion or a four-fold increase in antibody titres. All 28 patients developed non-specific febrile manifestations, including fever in 23 (82%), headache in 14 (50%), malaise in 13 (46%), dizziness in nine (32%), myalgia in four (14%), and chills in four (14%). Additionally, ten (36%) of 28 patients had rash or eschar, eight (29%) had lymphadenopathy, eight (29%) had gastrointestinal symptoms, and three (11%) had stiff neck. Five patients were admitted to hospital because of severe disease. Six (35%) of 17 patients with data available had high hepatic aminotransferase concentrations.

Interpretation

The emergence of “A capra” as a cause of human disease suggests that individuals living in or travelling to endemic regions in northern China should take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to this novel tick-borne pathogen.

Reference

Li H, Zheng Y-C, Ma L, et al. Human infection with a novel tick-borne_Anaplasma_ species in China: a surveillance study. Lancet InfectiousDiseases. Published Online: 29 March 2015. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(15)70051-4. Available at: LINK

Anthrax Scare in Simplipal Biosphere, Odisha, India

After 8 cattle and over 100 pigs were found dead in villages around the Simlipal Biosphere of Odisha in India, the villagers were gripped with an anthrax scare. This is based on the fact that in December 2014, an elephant died of suspected anthrax in the range, and later, investigation confirmed the presence of Bacillus anthracis in the elephant’s organs.

Though the cattle were vaccinated against the disease, pigs are usually not vaccinated, and vaccine failure has been noted in cattle. Teams of Veterinary Surgeons have visited the affected areas and blood and visceral samples have been collected from a dead calf. Now, as calves are rarely vaccinated against anthrax, if the bacillus turns up on investigation, then a fresh round of vaccinations and other public health measures need to be initiated to stop further spread of the disease.

 

Plague Bacteria Detected in Arizona Fleas

The causative bacterium of plague, Yersinia pestis, has been detected in fleas in Picture Canyon, Arizona. Deaths of prairie dogs in this region alerted officials to the possibility of the disease.

Prairie dogs are especially vulnerable to this bacterium as they live in social burrows which may be infested with rodents that carry the fleas bearing the disease causing bacteria. Once the host rodent dies, the fleas seek out new hosts to feed off as they are sanguinivorous. It has been noted that even a single infected member of a prairie dog colony may lead to the death of as many as 90% of the members of the colony.

Human cases have been known to develop from close contact with cats that have preyed on infected rodents, and adequate advisory is being issued, especially to campers and hikers in the region, about the risks of plague. In addition, the prairie dog burrows at the affected place, Picture Canyon, are being sprayed with insecticide to kill the fleas that may host the plague bacillus.