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PCR-RFLP analyses of <i>Leishmania</i> species causing cutaneous and mucocutaneous leishmaniasis revealed distribution of genetically complex strains with hybrid and mito-nuclear discordance in Ecuador

by Hirotomo Kato, Eduardo A. Gomez, Chisato Seki, Hayato Furumoto, Luiggi Martini-Robles, Jenny Muzzio, Manuel Calvopiña, Lenin Velez, Makoto Kubo, Ahmed Tabbabi, Daisuke S. Yamamoto, Yoshihisa Hashiguchi

PCR-Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) analyses targeting multiple nuclear genes were established for the simple and practical identification of Leishmania species without using expensive equipment. This method was applied to 92 clinical samples collected at 33 sites in 14 provinces of Ecuador, which have been identified at the species level by the kinetoplast cytochrome b (cyt b) gene sequence analysis, and the results obtained by the two analyses were compared. Although most results corresponded between the two analyses, PCR-RFLP analyses revealed distribution of hybrid strains between Leishmania (Viannia) guyanensis and L. (V.) braziliensis and between L. (V.) guyanensis and L. (V.) panamensis, of which the latter was firstly identified in Ecuador. Moreover, unexpected parasite strains having the kinetoplast cyt b gene of L. (V.) braziliensis and nuclear genes of L. (V.) guyanensis, L. (V.) panamensis, or a hybrid between L. (V.) guyanensis and L. (V.) panamensis were identified. This is the first report of the distribution of a protozoan parasite having mismatches between kinetoplast and nuclear genes, known as mito-nuclear discordance. The result demonstrated that genetically complex Leishmania strains are present in Ecuador. Since genetic exchanges such as hybrid formation were suggested to cause higher pathogenicity in Leishmania and may be transmitted by more species of sand flies, further country-wide epidemiological studies on clinical symptoms, as well as transmissible vectors, will be necessary.

Characterization of a non-sexual population of <i>Strongyloides stercoralis</i> with hybrid 18S rDNA haplotypes in Guangxi, Southern China

by Siyu Zhou, Xiaoyin Fu, Pei Pei, Marek Kucka, Jing Liu, Lili Tang, Tingzheng Zhan, Shanshan He, Yingguang Frank Chan, Christian Rödelsperger, Dengyu Liu, Adrian Streit

Strongyloidiasis is a much-neglected but sometimes fatal soil born helminthiasis. The causing agent, the small intestinal parasitic nematode Strongyloides stercoralis can reproduce sexually through the indirect/heterogonic life cycle, or asexually through the auto-infective or the direct/homogonic life cycles. Usually, among the progeny of the parasitic females both, parthenogenetic parasitic (females only) and sexual free-living (females and males) individuals, are present simultaneously. We isolated S. stercoralis from people living in a village with a high incidence of parasitic helminths, in particular liver flukes (Clonorchis sinensis) and hookworms, in the southern Chinese province Guangxi. We determined nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences of individual S. stercoralis isolated from this village and from close by hospitals and we compared these S. stercoralis among themselves and with selected published S. stercoralis from other geographic locations. For comparison, we also analyzed the hookworms present in the same location. We found that, compared to earlier studies of S. stercoralis populations in South East Asia, all S. stercoralis sampled in our study area were very closely related, suggesting a recent common source of infection for all patients. In contrast, the hookworms from the same location, while all belonging to the species Necator americanus, showed rather extensive genetic diversity even within host individuals. Different from earlier studies conducted in other geographic locations, almost all S. stercoralis in this study appeared heterozygous for different sequence variants of the 18S rDNA hypervariable regions (HVR) I and IV. In contrast to earlier investigations, except for three males, all S. stercoralis we isolated in this study were infective larvae, suggesting that the sampled population reproduces predominantly, if not exclusively through the clonal life cycles. Consistently, whole genome sequencing of individual worms revealed higher heterozygosity than reported earlier for likely sexual populations of S. stercoralis. Elevated heterozygosity is frequently associated with asexual clonal reproduction.

Hindgut microbiota in laboratory-reared and wild <i>Triatoma infestans</i>

by Andreea Waltmann, Alexandra C. Willcox, Sujata Balasubramanian, Katty Borrini Mayori, Sandra Mendoza Guerrero, Renzo S. Salazar Sanchez, Jeffrey Roach, Carlos Condori Pino, Robert H. Gilman, Caryn Bern, Jonathan J. Juliano, Michael Z. Levy, Steven R. Meshnick, Natalie M. Bowman

Triatomine vectors transmit Trypanosoma cruzi, the etiological agent of Chagas disease in humans. Transmission to humans typically occurs when contaminated triatomine feces come in contact with the bite site or mucosal membranes. In the Southern Cone of South America, where the highest burden of disease exists, Triatoma infestans is the principal vector for T. cruzi. Recent studies of other vector-borne illnesses have shown that arthropod microbiota influences the ability of infectious agents to colonize the insect vector and transmit to the human host. This has garnered attention as a potential control strategy against T. cruzi, as vector control is the main tool of Chagas disease prevention. Here we characterized the microbiota in T. infestans feces of both wild-caught and laboratory-reared insects and examined the relationship between microbial composition and T. cruzi infection using highly sensitive high-throughput sequencing technology to sequence the V3-V4 region of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene on the MiSeq Illumina platform. We collected 59 wild (9 with T. cruzi infection) and 10 lab-reared T. infestans (4 with T. cruzi infection) from the endemic area of Arequipa, Perú. Wild T. infestans had greater hindgut bacterial diversity than laboratory-reared bugs. Microbiota of lab insects comprised a subset of those identified in their wild counterparts, with 96 of the total 124 genera also observed in laboratory-reared insects. Among wild insects, variation in bacterial composition was observed, but time and location of collection and development stage did not explain this variation. T. cruzi infection in lab insects did not affect α- or β-diversity; however, we did find that the β-diversity of wild insects differed if they were infected with T. cruzi and identified 10 specific taxa that had significantly different relative abundances in infected vs. uninfected wild T. infestans (Bosea, Mesorhizobium, Dietzia, and Cupriavidus were underrepresented in infected bugs; Sporosarcina, an unclassified genus of Porphyromonadaceae, Nestenrenkonia, Alkalibacterium, Peptoniphilus, Marinilactibacillus were overrepresented in infected bugs). Our findings suggest that T. cruzi infection is associated with the microbiota of T. infestans and that inferring the microbiota of wild T. infestans may not be possible through sampling of T. infestans reared in the insectary.

Seasonal patterns of dengue fever in rural Ecuador: 2009-2016

by Rachel Sippy, Diego Herrera, David Gaus, Ronald E. Gangnon, Jonathan A. Patz, Jorge E. Osorio

Season is a major determinant of infectious disease rates, including arboviruses spread by mosquitoes, such as dengue, chikungunya, and Zika. Seasonal patterns of disease are driven by a combination of climatic or environmental factors, such as temperature or rainfall, and human behavioral time trends, such as school year schedules, holidays, and weekday-weekend patterns. These factors affect both disease rates and healthcare-seeking behavior. Seasonality of dengue fever has been studied in the context of climatic factors, but short- and long-term time trends are less well-understood. With 2009–2016 medical record data from patients diagnosed with dengue fever at two hospitals in rural Ecuador, we used Poisson generalized linear modeling to determine short- and long-term seasonal patterns of dengue fever, as well as the effect of day of the week and public holidays. In a subset analysis, we determined the impact of school schedules on school-aged children. With a separate model, we examined the effect of climate on diagnosis patterns. In the first model, the most important predictors of dengue fever were annual sinusoidal fluctuations in disease, long-term trends (as represented by a spline for the full study duration), day of the week, and hospital. Seasonal trends showed single peaks in case diagnoses, during mid-March. Compared to the average of all days, cases were more likely to be diagnosed on Tuesdays (risk ratio (RR): 1.26, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.05–1.51) and Thursdays (RR: 1.25, 95% CI 1.02–1.53), and less likely to be diagnosed on Saturdays (RR: 0.81, 95% CI 0.65–1.01) and Sundays (RR: 0.74, 95% CI 0.58–0.95). Public holidays were not significant predictors of dengue fever diagnoses, except for an increase in diagnoses on the day after Christmas (RR: 2.77, 95% CI 1.46–5.24). School schedules did not impact dengue diagnoses in school-aged children. In the climate model, important climate variables included the monthly total precipitation, an interaction between total precipitation and monthly absolute minimum temperature, an interaction between total precipitation and monthly precipitation days, and a three-way interaction between minimum temperature, total precipitation, and precipitation days. This is the first report of long-term dengue fever seasonality in Ecuador, one of few reports from rural patients, and one of very few studies utilizing daily disease reports. These results can inform local disease prevention efforts, public health planning, as well as global and regional models of dengue fever trends.

Refining wet lab experiments with <i>in silico</i> searches: A rational quest for diagnostic peptides in visceral leishmaniasis

by Bruno Cesar Bremer Hinckel, Tegwen Marlais, Stephanie Airs, Tapan Bhattacharyya, Hideo Imamura, Jean-Claude Dujardin, Sayda El-Safi, Om Prakash Singh, Shyam Sundar, Andrew Keith Falconar, Bjorn Andersson, Sergey Litvinov, Michael A. Miles, Pascal Mertens

Background

The search for diagnostic biomarkers has been profiting from a growing number of high quality sequenced genomes and freely available bioinformatic tools. These can be combined with wet lab experiments for a rational search. Improved, point-of-care diagnostic tests for visceral leishmaniasis (VL), early case detection and surveillance are required. Previous investigations demonstrated the potential of IgG1 as a biomarker for monitoring clinical status in rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), although using a CLA as capturing antigen. Replacing the CLA by specific antigens would lead to more robust RDTs.

Methodology

Immunoblots revealed L. donovani protein bands detected by IgG1 from VL patients. Upon confident identification of these antigens by mass spectrometry (MS), we searched for evidence of constitutive protein expression and presence of antigenic domains or high accessibility to B-cells. Selected candidates had their linear epitopes mapped with in silico algorithms. Multiple high-scoring predicted epitopes from the shortlisted proteins were screened in peptide arrays. The most promising candidate was tested in RDT prototypes using VL and nonendemic healthy control (NEHC) patient sera.

Results

Over 90% of the proteins identified from the immunoblots did not satisfy the selection criteria and were excluded from the downstream epitope mapping. Screening of predicted epitope peptides from the shortlisted proteins identified the most reactive, for which the sensitivity for IgG1 was 84% (95% CI 60—97%) with Sudanese VL sera on RDT prototypes. None of the sera from NEHCs were positive.

Conclusion

We employed in silico searches to reduce drastically the output of wet lab experiments, focusing on promising candidates containing selected protein features. By predicting epitopes in silico we screened a large number of peptides using arrays, identifying the most promising one, for which IgG1 sensitivity and specificity, with limited sample size, supported this proof of concept strategy for diagnostics discovery, which can be applied to the development of more robust IgG1 RDTs for monitoring clinical status in VL.

Arboviral screening of invasive <i>Aedes</i> species in northeastern Turkey: West Nile virus circulation and detection of insect-only viruses

by Mustafa M. Akıner, Murat Öztürk, Aykut Buğra Başer, Filiz Günay, Sabri Hacıoğlu, Annika Brinkmann, Nergis Emanet, Bülent Alten, Aykut Özkul, Andreas Nitsche, Yvonne-Marie Linton, Koray Ergünay

Background

The recent reports of Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus populations in Turkey, in parallel with the territorial expansion identified in several surrounding countries, have raised concerns about the establishment and re-establishment of these invasive Aedes mosquitoes in Turkey. This cross-sectional study was performed to detect Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus in regions of recent incursions, and screen for viral pathogens known to be transmitted elsewhere by these species.

Methodology

Mosquitoes were collected at several locations in Artvin, Rize and Trabzon provinces of the Black Sea region during 2016–2017, identified morphologically, pooled and analyzed via generic or specific nucleic acid amplification assays. Viruses in positive pools were identified by product sequencing, cell culture inoculation and next generation sequencing (NGS) in selected specimens.

Principal findings

The study group comprised 791 specimens. Aedes albopictus was the most abundant species in all locations (89.6%), followed by Ae. aegypti (7.8%) and Culex pipiens (2.5%). Mosquitoes were screened for viruses in 65 pools where fifteen (23.1%) were reactive. The infecting strains was identified as West Nile virus (WNV) in 5 pools (7.7%) with Ae. albopictus or Cx. pipiens mosquitoes. The obtained WNV sequences phylogenetically grouped with local and global lineage 1 clade 1a viruses. In 4 (6.2%) and 6 (9.2%) pools, respectively, cell fusing agent virus (CFAV) and Aedes flavivirus (AEFV) sequences were characterized. NGS provided a near-complete AEFV genome in a pool of Ae. albopictus. The strain is provisionally called “AEFV-Turkey”, and functional analysis of the genome revealed several conserved motifs and regions associated with virus replication. Merida-like virus Turkey (MERDLVT), a recently-described novel rhabdovirus, was also co-detected in a Cx. pipiens pool also positive for WNV.

Conclusions/Significance

Invasive Aedes mosquitoes are established in certain locations of northeastern Turkey. Herein we conclusively show the role of these species in WNV circulation in the region. Biosurveillance is imperative to monitor the spread of these species further into Asia Minor and to detect possible introduction of pathogens.

A 5-Year intervention study on elimination of urogenital schistosomiasis in Zanzibar: Parasitological results of annual cross-sectional surveys

by Stefanie Knopp, Shaali M. Ame, Bobbie Person, Jan Hattendorf, Muriel Rabone, Saleh Juma, Juma Muhsin, Iddi Simba Khamis, Elizabeth Hollenberg, Khalfan A. Mohammed, Fatma Kabole, Said M. Ali, David Rollinson

Background

The Zanzibar Elimination of Schistosomiasis Transmission (ZEST) project aimed to eliminate urogenital schistosomiasis as a public health problem from Pemba and to interrupt Schistosoma haematobium transmission from Unguja in 5 years.

Methodology

A repeated cross-sectional cluster-randomized trial was implemented from 2011/12 till 2017. On each island, 45 shehias were randomly assigned to receive one of three interventions: biannual mass drug administration (MDA) with praziquantel alone, or in combination with snail control or behavior change measures. In cross-sectional surveys, a single urine sample was collected from ~9,000 students aged 9- to 12-years and from ~4,500 adults aged 20- to 55-years annually, and from ~9,000 1st year students at baseline and the final survey. Each sample was examined for S. haematobium eggs by a single urine filtration. Prevalence and infection intensity were determined. Odds of infection were compared between the intervention arms.

Principal findings

Prevalence was reduced from 6.1% (95% confidence interval (CI): 4.5%-7.6%) to 1.7% (95% CI: 1.2%-2.2%) in 9- to 12-year old students, from 3.9% (95% CI: 2.8%-5.0%) to 1.5% (95% CI: 1.0%-2.0%) in adults, and from 8.8% (95% CI: 6.5%-11.2%) to 2.6% (95% CI: 1.7%-3.5%) in 1st year students from 2011/12 to 2017. In 2017, heavy infection intensities occurred in 0.4% of 9- to 12-year old students, 0.1% of adults, and 0.8% of 1st year students. Considering 1st year students in 2017, 13/45 schools in Pemba and 4/45 schools in Unguja had heavy infection intensities >1%. There was no significant difference in prevalence between the intervention arms in any study group and year.

Conclusions/Significance

Urogenital schistosomiasis was eliminated as public health problem from most sites in Pemba and Unguja. Prevalence was significantly reduced, but transmission was not interrupted. Continued interventions that are adaptive and tailored to the micro-epidemiology of S. haematobium in Zanzibar are needed to sustain and advance the gains made by ZEST.

Animal model of arthritis and myositis induced by the Mayaro virus

by Franciele Martins Santos, Roberto Sousa Dias, Michelle Dias de Oliveira, Isabella Cristina Toledo Alves Costa, Luciana de Souza Fernandes, Carine Ribeiro Pessoa, Sérgio Luis Pinto da Matta, Vivian Vasconcelos Costa, Danielle G. Souza, Cynthia Canêdo da Silva, Sérgio Oliveira de Paula

Background

The Mayaro virus (MAYV) is an endemic arbovirus in South American countries, where it is responsible for sporadic outbreaks of Mayaro fever. Clinical manifestations include fever, headache, ocular pain, rash, myalgia, and debilitating and persistent polyarthralgia. Understanding the mechanisms associated with MAYV-induced arthritis is of great importance due to the potential for its emergence, urbanization and dispersion to other regions.

Methods

15-day old Balb/c mice were infected by two distinct pathways, below the forelimb and in the rear footpad. Animals were observed for a period of 21 days. During this time, they were monitored every 24 hours for disease signs, such as weight loss and muscle weakness. Histological damage in the muscles and joints was evaluated 3, 7, 10, 15 and 20 days post-infection. The cytokine profile in serum and muscles during MAYV infection was evaluated by flow cytometry at different post-infection times. For pain analysis, the animals were submitted to the von Frey test and titre in different organs was evaluated throughout the study to obtain viral kinetics.

Findings

Infection by two distinct pathways, below the forelimb and in the rear footpad, resulted in a homogeneous viral spread and the development of acute disease in animals. Clinical signs were observed such as ruffled fur, hunched posture, eye irritation and slight gait alteration. In the physical test, both groups presented loss of resistance, which was associated with histopathological damage, including myositis, arthritis, tenosynovitis and periostitis. The immune response was characterized by a strong inflammatory response mediated by the cytokines TNF-α, IL-6 and INF-γ and chemokine MCP-1, followed by the action of IL-10 and IL-4 cytokines.

Interpretation

The results showed that Balb/c mice represent a promising model to study mechanisms involved in MAYV pathogenesis and for future antiviral testing.

Effects of water, sanitation, handwashing and nutritional interventions on soil-transmitted helminth infections in young children: A cluster-randomized controlled trial in rural Bangladesh

by Ayse Ercumen, Jade Benjamin-Chung, Benjamin F. Arnold, Audrie Lin, Alan E. Hubbard, Christine Stewart, Zahidur Rahman, Sarker Masud Parvez, Leanne Unicomb, Mahbubur Rahman, Rashidul Haque, John M. Colford Jr., Stephen P. Luby

Background

Soil transmitted helminths (STH) infect >1.5 billion people. Mass drug administration (MDA) effectively reduces infection; however, there is evidence for rapid reinfection and risk of potential drug resistance. We conducted a randomized controlled trial in Bangladesh (WASH Benefits, NCT01590095) to assess whether water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition interventions, alone and combined, reduce STH in a setting with ongoing MDA.

Methodology/Principal findings

In 2012–2013, we randomized 720 clusters of 5551 pregnant women into water treatment, sanitation, handwashing, combined water+sanitation+handwashing (WSH), nutrition, nutrition+WSH (N+WSH) or control arms. In 2015–2016, we enrolled 7795 children, aged 2–12 years, of 4102 available women for STH follow-up and collected stool from 7187. We enumerated STH infections with Kato-Katz. We estimated intention-to-treat intervention effects on infection prevalence and intensity. Participants and field staff were not blinded; laboratory technicians and data analysts were blinded.Prevalence among controls was 36.8% for A. lumbricoides, 9.2% for hookworm and 7.5% for T. trichiura. Most infections were low-intensity. Compared to controls, the water intervention reduced hookworm by 31% (prevalence ratio [PR] = 0.69 (0.50,0.95), prevalence difference [PD] = -2.83 (-5.16,-0.50)) but did not affect other STH. Sanitation improvements reduced T. trichiura by 29% (PR = 0.71 (0.52,0.98), PD = -2.17 (-4.03,-0.38)), had a similar borderline effect on hookworm and no effect on A. lumbricoides. Handwashing and nutrition interventions did not reduce any STH. WSH and N+WSH reduced hookworm prevalence by 29–33% (WSH: PR = 0.71 (0.52,0.99), PD = -2.63 (-4.95,-0.31); N+WSH: PR = 0.67 (0.50,0.91), PD = -3.00 (-5.14,-0.85)) and marginally reduced A. lumbricoides. Effects on infection intensity were similar.

Conclusions/Significance

In a low-intensity infection setting with MDA, we found modest but sustained hookworm reduction from water treatment and combined WSH interventions. Impacts were more pronounced on STH species with short vs. long-term environmental survival. Our findings suggest possible waterborne transmission for hookworm. Water treatment and sanitation improvements can augment MDA to interrupt STH transmission.

Trial registration

NCT01590095.

High seroconversion rate to Rift Valley fever virus in cattle and goats in far northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in the absence of reported outbreaks

by Carien van den Bergh, Estelle H. Venter, Robert Swanepoel, Peter N. Thompson

Background

Rift Valley fever (RVF) is a mosquito-borne zoonotic disease characterized in South Africa by large epidemics amongst ruminant livestock at very long, irregular intervals, mainly in the central interior. However, the presence and patterns of occurrence of the virus in the eastern parts of the country are poorly known. This study aimed to detect the presence of RVF virus (RVFV) in cattle and goats in far northern KwaZulu-Natal province and to estimate the prevalence of antibodies to the virus and the incidence rate of seroconversion.

Methodology

Cross-sectional studies were performed in communally farmed cattle (n = 423) and goats (n = 104), followed by longitudinal follow-up of seronegative livestock (n = 253) 14 times over 24 months, representing 160.3 animal-years at risk. Exposure to RVFV was assessed using an IgG sandwich ELISA and a serum neutralization test (SNT) and seroconversion was assessed using SNT. Incidence density was estimated and compared using multivariable Poisson models and hazard of seroconversion was estimated over time.

Principal findings

Initial overall seroprevalence was 34.0% (95%CI: 29.5–38.8%) in cattle and 31.7% (95%CI: 22.9–41.6%) in goats, varying by locality from 18–54%. Seroconversions to RVFV based on SNT were detected throughout the year, with the incidence rate peaking during the high rainfall months of January to March, and differed considerably between years. Overall seroconversion rate in cattle was 0.59 per animal-year (95% CI: 0.46–0.75) and in goats it was 0.41 per animal-year (95% CI: 0.25–0.64), varying significantly over short distances.

Conclusions/Significance

The high seroprevalence in all age groups and evidence of year-round viral circulation provide evidence for a hyperendemic situation in the study area. This is the first study to directly estimate infection rate of RVFV in livestock in an endemic area in the absence of reported outbreaks and provides the basis for further investigation of factors affecting viral circulation and mechanisms for virus survival during interepidemic periods.

Brucellosis awareness and knowledge in communities worldwide: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 79 observational studies

by Ning Zhang, Hao Zhou, De-Sheng Huang, Peng Guan

Background

Brucellosis is regarded as a major zoonotic infection worldwide. Awareness and knowledge of brucellosis among occupational workers is considered an important aspect of brucellosis control in both humans and animals. The aim of this study was to explore the distributions of the pooled awareness level and the knowledge level of the disease worldwide.

Methods

A meta-analysis was carried out to obtain pooled brucellosis awareness levels and knowledge levels of respondents regarding the zoonotic nature of brucellosis, mode of brucellosis transmission, and brucellosis symptoms in animals and humans. The analysis was conducted and reported in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-analyses guidelines.

Results

A total of seventy-nine original articles reporting the brucellosis awareness levels of in populations from 22 countries were assessed. The total pooled awareness level of brucellosis was 55.5%, and the pooled awareness levels regarding the zoonotic nature of brucellosis, mode of brucellosis transmission, signs of human brucellosis and signs of animal brucellosis were 37.6%, 35.9%, 41.6%, and 28.4% respectively. The pooled awareness level was higher than the brucellosis-related knowledge level. Subgroup analyses showed that no obvious differences in brucellosis awareness levels between high-risk populations in Asia and Africa. Health workers (including human health workers and veterinarians) had the greatest overall awareness and knowledge of human brucellosis. The overall awareness levels and knowledge levels of livestock owners (farmers) and herders were higher than those of dairy farmers and abattoir workers. In addition, awareness and knowledge levels were higher among people who were involved in bovine, caprine and ovine animal production or in caprine and ovine animal production than among people who were involved in only bovine animal production.

Conclusions

Insufficient awareness and knowledge of brucellosis were observed in the original studies conducted mainly in Asia and Africa. Interventions to improve public knowledge about brucellosis are urgently needed.

Knowledge, attitudes and practices related to schistosomiasis transmission and control in Leyte, Philippines

by Isabel Francisco, Mario Jiz, Marieke Rosenbaum, Palmera Baltazar, Jennifer A. Steele

Schistosomiasis is a chronic but preventable disease that affects 260 million people worldwide. In the Philippines, 860,000 people are afflicted with Schistosoma japonicum annually, and another 6.7 million live in endemic areas. The disease’s complex epidemiology as well as the influence of poverty in endemic areas demand an integrated, multi-sectoral approach to disease control. Results from behavioral or sociocultural studies on schistosomiasis could improve the content and impact of schistosomiasis control in rural villages in the Philippines. We investigated knowledge, attitudes and practices related to schistosomiasis transmission and control in an endemic village in Leyte Province, Philippines. We administered a questionnaire to 219 participants covering 1) knowledge and attitudes related to schistosomiasis, its symptoms, and its transmission; 2) attitudes and practices in relation to schistosomiasis prevention; 3) willingness to comply with public health control programs; and 4) whether the respondent had previously contracted schistosomiasis. Responses revealed fairly high measures of schistosomiasis knowledge (mean 17.0 out of 23 questions, range 6–23), but also inconsistent disease prevention behavior. A high proportion of participants (72.6%, n = 159) reported previous disease. Participant belief in the preventability of schistosomiasis was revealed to be a key attitude, as carabao owners who believed in prevention were over five times more likely to be willing to vaccinate their carabaos (OR = 5.24, 95% CI 1.20–27.68, P = 0.04). Additionally, participants who did not believe in prevention were about twice as likely to report previous disease (OR = 2.31, 95% CI 1.02–5.63, P = 0.05). Our results suggest that future public health interventions should address barriers to disease-preventing behavior, as well as maintaining community belief in disease prevention. Comprehensive disease control programs should be supplemented by sociocultural and behavioral context in order to improve their impact in endemic communities.

Topical paromomycin for New World cutaneous leishmaniasis

by Néstor Sosa, Juan Miguel Pascale, Ana I. Jiménez, Jeanne A. Norwood, Mara Kreishman-Detrick, Peter J. Weina, Kendra Lawrence, William F. McCarthy, Ryan C. Adams, Charles Scott, Janet Ransom, Douglas Tang, Max Grogl

Background

Paromomycin-based topical treatments were shown to be effective in curing cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) lesions caused by Leishmania major in Tunisia. Cure rates of an index lesion were approximately 80%. As a follow on, we conducted a similar Phase 3 trial in Panama to demonstrate the efficacy of these treatments against New World species. The primary objective was to determine if a combination topical cream (paromomycin-gentamicin) resulted in statistically superior final clinical cure rates of an index lesion compared to a paromomycin alone topical cream for the treatment of CL, primarily caused by Leishmania panamensis.

Methods

We conducted a randomized, double blind, Phase 3 trial of topical creams for the treatment of CL caused by Leishmania spp. Three hundred ninety nine patients with one to ten CL lesions were treated by topical application once daily for 20 days. The primary efficacy endpoint was percentage of subjects with clinical cure of an index lesion confirmed to contain Leishmania with no relapse.

Results

The clinical cure of the index lesion for paromomycin-gentamicin was 79% (95% CI; 72 to 84) and for paromomycin alone was 78% (95% CI; 74 to 87) (p = 0.84). The most common adverse events considered related to study cream application were mild to moderate dermatitis, pain, and pruritus.

Conclusions

Superiority of paromomycin-gentamicin was not demonstrated. However, the approximately 80% cure rates for both topical creams were similar to those demonstrated in Tunisia and previously reported with parenteral antimonials.

Biodegradable nanocarriers coated with polymyxin B: Evaluation of leishmanicidal and antibacterial potential

by Juliana Souza Ribeiro Costa, Marília Medeiros, Edite Harumi Yamashiro-Kanashiro, Mussya Cisotto Rocha, Paulo Cesar Cotrim, Marco Antonio Stephano, Marcelo Lancellotti, Guilherme Diniz Tavares, Laura Oliveira-Nascimento

Most treatments of leishmaniasis require hospitalization and present side effects or parasite resistance; innovations in drug formulation/reposition can overcome these barriers and must be pursued to increase therapeutic alternatives. Therefore, we tested polymyxin B (polB) potential to kill Leishmania amazonensis, adsorbed or not in PBCA nanoparticles (PBCAnp), which could augment polB internalization in infected macrophages. PBCAnps were fabricated by anionic polymerization and analyzed by Dynamic Light Scattering (size, ζ potential), Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis (size/concentration), vertical diffusion cell (release rate), drug incorporation (indirect method, protein determination) and in vitro cell viability. Nanoparticles coated with polB (PBCAnp-polB) presented an adequate size of 261.5 ± 25.9 nm, low PDI and ζ of 1.79 ± 0.17 mV (stable for 45 days, at least). The 50% drug release from PBCAnp-polB was 6–7 times slower than the free polB, which favors a prolonged and desired release profile. Concerning in vitro evaluations, polB alone reduced in vitro amastigote infection of macrophages (10 μg/mL) without complete parasite elimination, even at higher concentrations. This behavior limits its future application to adjuvant leishmanicidal therapy or antimicrobial coating of carriers. The nanocarrier PBCAnp also presented leishmanicidal effect and surpassed polB activity; however, no antimicrobial activity was detected. PolB maintained its activity against E. coli, Pseudomonas and Klebsiella, adding antimicrobial properties to the nanoparticles. Thus, this coated drug delivery system, described for the first time, demonstrated antileishmanial and antimicrobial properties. The bactericidal feature helps with concomitant prevention/treatment of secondary infections that worst ulcers induced by cutaneous L. amazonensis, ultimately ending in disfiguring or disabling lesions.

Unbiased assessment of disease surveillance utilities: A prospect theory application

by Arthur E. Attema, Lisheng He, Alasdair J. C. Cook, Victor J. Del Rio Vilas

Objectives

We contribute a new methodological approach to the ongoing efforts towards evaluating public health surveillance. Specifically, we apply a descriptive framework, grounded in prospect theory (PT), for the evaluation of decisions on disease surveillance deployment. We focus on two attributes of any surveillance system: timeliness, and false positive rate (FPR).

Methods

In a sample of 69 health professionals from a number of health related networks polled online, we elicited PT preferences, specifically respondents’ attitudes towards gains, losses and probabilities (i.e., if they overweight or underweight extreme probabilities) by means of a series of lotteries for either timeliness or FPR. Moreover, we estimated willingness to pay (WTP) for improvements in the two surveillance attributes. For contextualization, we apply our framework to rabies surveillance.

Results

Our data reveal considerable probability weighting, both for gains and losses. In other words, respondents underestimate their chances of getting a good outcome in uncertain situations, and they overestimate their chances of bad outcomes. Moreover, there is convex utility for losses and loss aversion, that is, losses loom larger than gains of the same absolute magnitude to the respondents. We find no differences between the estimated parameters for timeliness and FPR. The median WTP is $7,250 per day gained in detection time and $30 per 1/10,000 reduction in FPR.

Conclusion

Our results indicate that the biases described by PT are present among public health professionals, which highlights the need to incorporate a PT framework when eliciting their preferences for surveillance systems.

Molecular detection of <i>P</i>. <i>vivax</i> and <i>P</i>. <i>ovale</i> foci of infection in asymptomatic and symptomatic children in Northern Namibia

by Daniel H. Haiyambo, Petrina Uusiku, Davies Mumbengegwi, Jeff M. Pernica, Ronnie Bock, Benoit Malleret, Laurent Rénia, Beatrice Greco, Isaac K. Quaye

Background

Knowledge of the foci of Plasmodium species infections is critical for a country with an elimination agenda. Namibia is targeting malaria elimination by 2020. To support decision making regarding targeted intervention, we examined for the first time, the foci of Plasmodium species infections and regional prevalence in northern Namibia, using nested and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methods.

Methods

We used cross-sectional multi-staged sampling to select 952 children below 9 years old from schools and clinics in seven districts in northern Namibia, to assess the presence of Plasmodium species.

Results

The median participant age was 6 years (25–75%ile 4–8 y). Participants had a median hemoglobin of 12.0 g/dL (25–75%ile 11.1–12.7 g/dL), although 21% of the cohort was anemic, with anemia being severer in the younger population (p<0.002). Most of children with Plasmodium infection were asymptomatic (63.4%), presenting a challenge for elimination. The respective parasite prevalence for Plasmodium falciparum (Pf), Plasmodium vivax (Pv) and Plasmodium ovale curtisi (Po) were (4.41%, 0.84% and 0.31%); with Kavango East and West (10.4%, 6.19%) and Ohangwena (4.5%) having the most prevalence. Pv was localized in Ohangwena, Omusati and Oshana, while Po was found in Kavango. All children with Pv/Pf coinfections in Ohangwena, had previously visited Angola, affirming that perennial migrations are risks for importation of Plasmodium species. The mean hemoglobin was lower in those with Plasmodium infection compared to those without (0.96 g/dL less, 95%CI 0.40–1.52 g/dL less, p = 0.0009) indicating that quasi-endemicity exists in the low transmission setting.

Conclusions

We conclude that Pv and Po species are present in northern Namibia. Additionally, the higher number of asymptomatic infections present challenges to the efforts at elimination for the country. Careful planning, coordination with neighboring Angola and execution of targeted active intervention, will be required for a successful elimination agenda.

Detection of clinical and neurological signs in apparently asymptomatic HTLV-1 infected carriers: Association with high proviral load

by Michel E. Haziot, M. Rita Gascon, Tatiane Assone, Luiz Augusto M. Fonseca, Olinda do Carmo Luiz, Jerusa Smid, Arthur M. Paiva, Rosa Maria do N. Marcusso, A. C. Penalva de Oliveira, Jorge Casseb

Several studies suggest that HTLV-1 infection may be associated with a wider spectrum of neurologic manifestations that do not meet diagnostic criteria for HAM/TSP. These conditions may later progress to HAM/TSP or constitute an intermediate clinical form, between asymptomatic HTLV-1 carriers and those with full myelopathy. Our aim was to determine the prevalence of HTLV-1-associated disease in subjects without HAM/TSP, and the relationship between these findings with HTLV-1 proviral load (PVL). Methods: 175 HTLV-1-infected subjects were submitted to a careful neurological evaluation, during their regular follow up at the HTLV outpatient clinic of the Institute of Infectious Diseases “Emilio Ribas”, São Paulo city, Brazil. Clinical evaluation and blinded standardized neurological screening were performed for all the subjects by the same neurologist (MH). Results: After the neurological evaluation, 133 patients were classified as asymptomatic and 42 fulfilled the criteria for intermediate syndrome (IS). The mean age of the enrolled subjects was 46.3 years and 130 (74.3%) were females. Clinical classification shows that neurological symptoms (p<0.001), visual disorders (p = 0.001), oral conditions (p = 0.001), skin lesions (p<0.001), bladder disorders (p<0.001), and rheumatological symptoms (p = 0.001), were strongly associated to IS, except for disautonomy (p = 0.21). A multivariate analysis revealed that HTLV-1 proviral load, oral conditions, bladder disorders and rheumatological symptoms were independently associated with the IS. Conclusions: We found some early alterations in 42 patients (24%), particularly the presence of previously not acknowledged clinical and neurological symptoms, among subjects previously classified as "asymptomatic", who we reclassified as having an intermediate syndrome.

Knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) towards rabies and free roaming dogs (FRD) in Panchkula district of north India: A cross-sectional study of urban residents

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 29 April 2019 - 9:00pm

by Harish Kumar Tiwari, Ian D. Robertson, Mark O’Dea, Abi Tamim Vanak

Canine rabies is endemic in urban India. A questionnaire was administered to 204 residents of the urbanised municipality of Panchkula in north India to assess the influence of gender, age, family size, social status and dog ownership, over the knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) towards rabies control and free-roaming dogs (FRD) in their locality. Bivariate analyses revealed significant knowledge gaps regarding crucial information on the control and transmission of rabies. Multivariable logistic regression models found that the respondents with a high/middle socio-economic status were likely to be more knowledgeable than those from low socio-economic levels (OR 3.03, 95%CI 1.5–6.0, p = 0.001). Households with children ≤14 years of age were likely to be lacking in knowledge about rabies compared to households with older or no children (OR 0.5, 95%CI 0.3–0.9, p = 0.04). The attitudes and practices of the respondents towards rabies control was positive in households with a high/middle socio-economic status (OR 3.4, 95%CI 1.7–7.2, p = 0.0008) but poor in older (≥ 35 years) participants (OR 0.4, 95%CI 0.2–0.7, p = 0.001). It is concluded that rabies awareness campaigns should be developed and conducted to target sectors of the urban community such as those belonging to lower socio-economic sections and schools to improve the residents’ knowledge and practices towards rabies. Educating dog owners about sterilising their pets is also recommended to alter the attitudes of the residents towards FRD population control.

Genus-wide <i>Leptospira</i> core genome multilocus sequence typing for strain taxonomy and global surveillance

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 26 April 2019 - 9:00pm

by Julien Guglielmini, Pascale Bourhy, Olivier Schiettekatte, Farida Zinini, Sylvain Brisse, Mathieu Picardeau

Leptospira is a highly heterogeneous bacterial genus that can be divided into three evolutionary lineages and >300 serovars. The causative agents of leptospirosis are responsible of an emerging zoonotic disease worldwide. To advance our understanding of the biodiversity of Leptospira strains at the global level, we evaluated the performance of whole-genome sequencing (WGS) as a genus-wide strain classification and genotyping tool. Herein we propose a set of 545 highly conserved loci as a core genome MLST (cgMLST) genotyping scheme applicable to the entire Leptospira genus, including non-pathogenic species. Evaluation of cgMLST genotyping was undertaken with 509 genomes, including 327 newly sequenced genomes, from diverse species, sources and geographical locations. Phylogenetic analysis showed that cgMLST defines species, clades, subclades, clonal groups and cgMLST sequence types (cgST), with high precision and robustness to missing data. Novel Leptospira species, including a novel subclade named S2 (saprophytes 2), were identified. We defined clonal groups (CG) optimally using a single-linkage clustering threshold of 40 allelic mismatches. While some CGs such as L. interrogans CG6 (serogroup Icterohaemorrhagiae) are globally distributed, others are geographically restricted. cgMLST was congruent with classical MLST schemes, but had greatly improved resolution and broader applicability. Single nucleotide polymorphisms within single cgST groups was limited to <30 SNPs, underlining a potential role for cgMLST in epidemiological surveillance. Finally, cgMLST allowed identification of serogroups and closely related serovars. In conclusion, the proposed cgMLST strategy allows high-resolution genotyping of Leptospira isolates across the phylogenetic breadth of the genus. The unified genomic taxonomy of Leptospira strains, available publicly at http://bigsdb.pasteur.fr/leptospira, will facilitate global harmonization of Leptospira genotyping, strain emergence follow-up and novel collaborative studies of the epidemiology and evolution of this emerging pathogen.

Vaccination with a chikungunya virus-like particle vaccine exacerbates disease in aged mice

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases News - 26 April 2019 - 9:00pm

by Maria T. Arévalo, Ying Huang, Cheryl A. Jones, Ted M. Ross

Introduction

Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a re-emerging pathogen responsible for causing outbreaks of febrile disease accompanied with debilitating joint pain. Symptoms typically persist for two weeks, but more severe and chronic chikungunya illnesses have been reported, especially in the elderly. Currently, there are no licensed vaccines or antivirals against CHIKV available. In this study, we combined a CHIK virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine with different adjuvants to enhance immunogenicity and protection in both, adult and aged mice.

Methods

CHIK VLP-based vaccines were tested in 6-8-week-old (adult) and 18-24-month-old (aged) female C57BL/6J mice. Formulations contained CHIK VLP alone or adjuvants: QuilA, R848, or Imject Alum. Mice were vaccinated three times via intramuscular injections. CHIKV-specific antibody responses were characterized by IgG subclass using ELISA, and by microneutralization assays. In addition, CHIKV infections were characterized in vaccinated and non-vaccinated adult mice and compared to aged mice.

Results

In adult mice, CHIKV infection of the right hind foot induced significant swelling, which peaked by day 7 post-infection at approximately 170% of initial size. Viral titers peaked at 2.53 × 1010 CCID50/ml on day 2 post-infection. Mice vaccinated with CHIK VLP-based vaccines developed robust anti-CHIKV-specific IgG antibody responses that were capable of neutralizing CHIKV in vitro. CHIK VLP alone or CHIK plus QuilA administered by IM injections protected 100% of mice against CHIKV. In contrast, the antibody responses elicited by the VLP-based vaccines were attenuated in aged mice, with negligible neutralizing antibody titers detected. Unvaccinated, aged mice were resistant to CHIKV infection, while vaccination with CHIKV VLPs exacerbated disease.

Conclusions

Unadjuvanted CHIK VLP vaccination elicits immune responses that protect 100% of adult mice against CHIKV infection. However, an improved vaccine/adjuvant combination is still necessary to enhance the protective immunity against CHIKV in the aged.

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