A report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) presents the results of a proficiency test to evaluate the inter-laboratory reproducibility and portability of Listeria monocytogenes genome assemblies in the EU and EEA.
The aim of the proficiency test was to support national public health reference laboratories performing whole genome sequencing (WGS)-based typing in generating good quality and comparable genome assemblies for L. monocytogenes. All national public health reference laboratories with WGS typing capabilities in the EU/EEA were invited to take part in the exercise.
There were 14 participants, who submitted assembled genomes for 15 sets of raw sequence reads. Assemblies can be used for many analyses and good quality assemblies are necessary to produce data that are comparable between laboratories.
ECDC supports the integration of WGS data into surveillance and multi-country outbreak investigations of foodborne diseases including listeriosis as one of the priority diseases.
Countries can perform the typing at national level or submit assemblies to the European Surveillance System (TESSy). For European surveillance of listeriosis, ECDC will only accept data from laboratories assemblies that have been generated by a concordant pipeline as verified according to the methodology described in this report.
Source: ECDC, 16 May 2019
The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has awarded official designation to the UK International Reference Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).
The centre brings together expertise to provide capacity development in investigating AMR from three Defra agencies with a strong international focus. These are the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
The centre supports low and middle income countries (LMICs) to improve laboratory and surveillance capacity that will monitor AMR and antimicrobial use, in addition to providing policy advice. The centre also provides field and technical support to countries in order to tackle AMR, using a one health approach, which targets agriculture, aquaculture, livestock, environment and human health.
Source: UK Government, 16 May 2019
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health reported that a 24-year-old woman has died of rabies in western Norway, after being bitten by a puppy while on holiday in the Philippines. The woman became unwell around two months after returning from the Philippines and died on 11 May 2019. According to family members, neither the woman nor her travelling companions had been vaccinated against rabies.
Travellers should be aware that any animal contact in a rabies endemic area poses a potential risk of infection. All travellers to endemic areas should be aware of immediate wound care and are advised to seek medical attention immediately if bitten or scratched by an animal and be aware that an effective rabies vaccination is available.
The risk of terrestrial rabies for any particular country can be checked on the individual pages of the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
Post-exposure rabies guidance is available on the TRAVAX and fitfortravel websites.
Source: fitfortravel, 13 May 2019
The European Environment Agency (EEA) reports that, despite some progress, continued contamination of Europe’s seas, by synthetic substances and heavy metals, continues to be a large-scale problem.
According to a newly published EEA report, between 75% and 96% of the assessed area of Europe’s regional seas, and 75% of the north-east Atlantic Ocean, are reported to have large-scale contamination problems. Contaminants include the insecticide DDT, cadmium and mercury which, although they appear to be declining, do not meet agreed thresholds.
The EEA assessment ‘Contaminants in Europe's seas’ is the first attempt to map contamination in Europe’s regional seas in a consistent manner and check the trends in long‑established hazardous substances. The assessment is based on publicly available monitoring data, primarily collected in the context of the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
The report states the way marine pollution is addressed needs to change profoundly, as many persistent substances remain in marine ecosystems, so avoiding their use in the first place is essential for reaching long‑term policy commitments.
Source: EEA, 15 May 2019
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reports that monitoring data on the presence of residues of veterinary medicines and contaminants in animals and animal-derived food show high rates of compliance with recommended safety levels. Presence of prohibited substances was reported to be low. The percentage of samples that exceeded maximum levels was 0.35% for the year 2017, which is within the range of 0.25%-0.37% reported over the previous 10 years.
Non-compliance for chemical contaminants, such as metals, was higher than for other groups of substances, with cadmium, lead, mercury and copper the most frequently identified.
The 2017 report is underpinned by data that will be made available on the EFSA’s open repository.
Source: EFSA, 13 May 2019
The focus of this year’s World No Smoking Day is ‘tobacco and lung health’. The campaign aims to increase awareness about:
- The particular dangers of tobacco smoke to lung health and the fundamental role the lungs play in the health and well-being of all people.
- Raising awareness of cost-effective and feasible actions that key audiences, including governments and the public, can take to reduce the risks to lung health posed by tobacco.
These actions include
- tobacco control measures outlined in the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) such as raising tobacco taxes
- implementing smoke-free policies
- supporting people to quit
- raising awareness through mass media
- enforcing bans on all forms of promotion
Smoking is responsible for over two-thirds of lung cancer deaths globally, and second-hand smoke increases the risk of developing lung cancer for non-smokers. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in most countries of the WHO European Region. Approximately 430,000 people died from lung cancer in the region in 2018, and more than half a million new cases were diagnosed during that period.
Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that results in a painful cough and agonizing breathing difficulties. It also exacerbates asthma, which restricts activity and contributes to disability. According to the latest available data, 3.6% of total deaths in the European Region were due to COPD in 2017.
Children exposed to second-hand smoke are at higher risk of developing frequent lower-respiratory infections and have a higher risk of suffering the onset and exacerbation of asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis. The link between tobacco smoking and tuberculosis (TB) is also well established, showing that the chemical components of tobacco smoke can trigger latent infections of TB.
Source: WHO, 31 May 2019
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new edition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), known as ICD-11. The changes reflect a modern understanding of sexual health and gender identity, notably by replacing ‘transsexualism’ with a new concept of ‘gender incongruence’, defined as a condition relating to sexual health rather than a mental and behavioural disorder.
The ICD is a standard guide used globally as the basis for health statistics, with funding implications for health services and insurance. How a condition or disease is classified in the ICD can make a significant difference to the way health systems and communities comprehend and respond to it. The previous classification of trans-related and gender-diverse identity issues created stigma and potential barriers to care, such as individuals having to be diagnosed as mentally ill, in order to access gender-affirming health care supported by health insurance coverage.
ICD-11 now acknowledges links that frequently occur between gender identity, sexual behaviour, exposure to violence and sexually transmitted infections.
Source: WHO, 17 May 2019