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ARCHIVED - Infectious Diseases News Brief - December 2, 2011

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Cryptococcus gattii in the United States: Clinical Aspects of Infection With an Emerging Pathogen

Background. Cryptococcus gattii (Cg) has caused increasing infections in the US Pacific Northwest (PNW) since 2004. We describe this outbreak and compare clinical aspects of infection in the United States among patients infected with different Cg genotypes.

Methods. Beginning in 2005, PNW state health departments conducted retrospective and prospective passive surveillance for Cg infections, including patient interviews and chart reviews; clinical isolates were genotyped at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We examined symptom frequency and underlying conditions in US patients with Cg infection and modeled factors associated with death.

Results. From 1 December 2004 to July 2011, 96 Cg infections were reported to the CDC. Eighty-three were in patients in or travelers to the PNW, 78 of which were genotypes VGIIa, VGIIb, or VGIIc (outbreak strains). Eighteen patients in and outside the PNW had other molecular type Cg infections (nonoutbreak strains). Patients with outbreak strain infections were more likely than those with nonoutbreak-strain infections to have preexisting conditions (86% vs 31%, respectively; P < .0001) and respiratory symptoms (75% vs 36%, respectively; P = .03) and less likely to have central nervous system (CNS) symptoms (37% vs 90%, respectively; P = .008). Preexisting conditions were associated with increased pneumonia risk and decreased risk of meningitis and CNS symptoms. Nineteen (33%) of 57 patients died. Past-year oral steroid use increased odds of death in multivariate analysis (P = .05).

Conclusions. Clinical differences may exist between outbreak-strain (VGIIa, VGIIb, and VGIIc) and nonoutbreak-strain Cg infections in the United States. Clinicians should have a low threshold for testing for Cg, particularly among patients with recent travel to the PNW.

Source: Clinical Infectious Diseases, (2011) 53 (12); 1188-1195 external site

Laboratory diagnosis of syphilis: A survey to examine the range of tests used in Canada

Laboratory diagnosis of syphilis has undergone major changes in the past decade with the introduction of immunoassays and recombinant Treponema pallidum antigens as screening tools for syphilis infection. To address this change in laboratory practice, a national syphilis laboratory working group was established with members from the Public Health Agency of Canada, provincial public health laboratories across the country as well as sexually transmitted infection researchers, clinicians and epidemiologists. This working group aims to examine how the use of newer immunoassays will affect syphilis diagnosis, surveillance and disease management. To provide a baseline for this work, an e-mail survey was conducted in the fall of 2009 to determine current laboratory practices for syphilis diagnosis in Canada. The most commonly used tests were rapid plasma reagin, enzyme immunoassay, T pallidum passive particle agglutination, venereal disease research laboratory, fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption, line immunoassay and polymerase chain reaction with 92%, 36%, 32%, 20%, 12%, 12% and 12% of the responding laboratories reporting using these tests, respectively. The ultimate goal of this working group will be to update laboratory guidelines for the diagnosis of syphilis, and to identify syphilis surveillance and research priorities in Canada.

Source: The Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology, Autumn 2011, Volume 22, Issue 3:83-87 external site