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News Scan for Apr 13, 2021

Antibiotic prescribing fell in British Columbia during pandemic

Overall and respiratory tract infection (RTI)-specific antibiotic prescribing fell significantly in British Columbia during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study today in Open Forum Infectious Diseases.

Researchers from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control and the University of British Columbia collected data on antibiotic prescriptions, diagnoses, and physician office visits in the Canadian province from January 2016 to Jul 21, 2020. They calculated monthly prescription rates stratified by age-group, sex, profession, and diagnosis type, and looked at the monthly prescription rate as a moving average over time. They also conducted an interrupted time series analysis to determine if there was a significant change in prescription rates after March 2020.

The results showed that moving average of monthly prescribing rates from January to June 2020 were below the minimum of the pre-pandemic years’ moving averages. In addition, researchers observed a more than 30% reduction in monthly prescription rates in April, May, and July of 2020 compared with the same months in 2019. The interrupted time series analysis showed overall monthly prescription rates experienced a significant level change of -12.79 after COVID-19 restrictions were put into place in March 2020, with the greatest level change (-18.02) observed in children ages 1 through 4.

When looking at prescriptions matched to diagnoses, the researchers found that RTI-associated prescriptions decreased significantly during April to July 2020 compared with the same 4 months during the pre-pandemic years, and the interrupted time series analysis found an estimated level change of -5.94 in RTI-associated monthly prescription rates after March 2020. Monthly prescription rates for amoxicillin, amoxicillin and enzyme inhibitors, azithromycin, clarithromycin, and sulfamethoxazole during January to July 2020 all fell compared with the same period in 2019.

The study authors speculate that the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions in the province, the subsequent reduction in opportunities for infectious disease transmission, and a shift to telemedicine all played role in the abrupt decline in antibiotic prescribing. 

“These radical changes in tandem likely led to a multitude of overlapping potential scenarios, all of which resulted in the decreased use of antibiotics in BC,” they wrote.
Apr 13 Open Forum Infect Dis abstract


USAID addresses AMR in animal production in Africa, Asia

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) yesterday announced the launch of a project to address emerging infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in animal production in Africa and Asia.

The Transformational Strategies for Farm Output Risk Mitigation (TRANSFORM) project is a 5-year, $33 million effort that will engage companies involved in animal production and marketing systems and partner with country governments to develop, test, and scale innovative solutions to sustainably improve animal health, strengthen animal production systems in animal agriculture value chains, and enhance global health security. USAID says the public/private partnership will explore strategies to improve safety and production practices, develop and implement antimicrobial stewardship policies across the industry, and establish a comprehensive animal health surveillance and data analytics platform to reduce infectious disease and AMR.

“USAID understands that human health is inextricably linked with the health of animals and the environment, and TRANSFORM represents a new and innovative way to protect human health by improving policies and practices related to animal production,” the agency said in a press release.

TRANSFORM will be implemented by a consortium that includes Cargill, Ausvet, Heifer International, and the International Poultry Council.
Apr 12 USAID press release

Global groups: Suspend sale of live wild mammals at food markets

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), today called for countries to suspend the sale of live-caught wild mammals at food markets as a step to reduce the spread of zoonotic diseases.

In an 8-page guidance document yesterday, the groups acknowledged that traditional food markets are a main source of affordable fresh food for many low-income groups and are a livelihood source.

They note, however, that most emerging infectious diseases have wildlife origins, and though the source of SARS-CoV-2 hasn’t been definitively identified, at some point the virus may have jumped to humans though one or multiple animal species. A food market that sold wild animals was at the center of China’s early outbreak, though it’s still not clear what role the market played in the dynamics of virus spread.

Along with suspension in market sale of wild mammals, the group recommended five other steps: strengthening hygiene and sanitation regulations for traditional markets, conducting risk assessments, ensuring that food inspectors are properly trained, shoring up animal health surveillance, and developing food safety information campaigns for market traders, stall holders, consumers, and the general public.
Apr 12 OIE, WHO, UNEP guidance document

High-path avian flu outbreaks hit birds in China and South Africa

China’s agriculture ministry yesterday reported a highly pathogenic H5N6 avian flu outbreak involving wild birds in Liaoning province in the northeast, according to Xinhua, China’s state news agency.

The outbreak occurred at a forest park near the city of Shenyang, killing 11 of 291 birds. H5N6 outbreaks in poultry have occurred in a number of Asian countries, and sporadic human infections have been confirmed, all but one in China. Laos is the only other country to report a human H5N6 case.

In other outbreak developments, South Africa reported a highly pathogenic H5 outbreak at a poultry farm in Gauteng province, according to an OIE notification. The event began on Apr 9, killing 300 of 29,000 birds. So far, the source of the virus isn’t known. Gauteng is a highly urbanized province in the country’s northeast and is home to Johannesburg.
Apr 13 Xinhua story
Apr 13 OIE report on H5 in South Africa

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