Roundup: CDC on Current Risks of Polio Virus; Why are Men at Higher Risk for Some Cancers; and Lyme Disease Vaccine in Clinical Trial

In New Report, CDC Urges Everyone In U.S. to ‘Stay Up to Date’ on Recommended Polio Vaccination

An unvaccinated young man in Rockland County, a suburb of New York City, was confirmed to have caught polio in June and suffered lower-limb paralysis. In a new report, investigators with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conclude that the polio virus may have been circulating widely for a year in Rockland and at least one neighboring county, and was present in New York’s wastewater as early as April.

There’s no reason to be alarmed, but the CDC urges all Americans to “stay up to date on recommended poliovirus vaccination” in the new report.

No cases of the “wild” poliovirus, the most common form, have been confirmed in the U.S. since 1979, following a long and successful vaccination campaign that began in the 1950s, says the CDC. Travelers have occasionally brought polio into the U.S. Polio is contagious and spreads through person-to-person contact. It lives in an infected person’s throat and intestines, and it can contaminate food and water in unsanitary conditions. People who don’t have symptoms can still pass the virus to others and make them sick.

The CDC’s new research provides more details from the continuing investigation into the first polio case detected in New York, the first such case in the United States since 2013.

The patient, who had not been vaccinated against polio, was hospitalized in June “with a 5-day history of low-grade fever, neck stiffness, back and abdominal pain, constipation, and 2 days of bilateral lower extremity weakness.”

Genomic sequencing indicated that the patient was infected with a version of the polio virus derived from the oral polio vaccine, which carries a weakened version of the virus. The oral vaccine has not been used in the U.S. since 2000. Children in the U.S. are routinely immunized with an injected vaccine.

“Unvaccinated persons in the United States remain at risk for paralytic poliomyelitis (polio) if they are exposed to either wild or vaccine-derived poliovirus,” the CDC states.

In its new report, the CDC states that the three-dose polio vaccination coverage among infants and children aged 24 months and older living in Rockland County was 67 percent in July 2020 — and declined to 60 percent by August 2022. In comparison, the national polio vaccine coverage by age 24 months was 93 percent among infants born during 2017–2018.

New Research Examines Why Men Carry Higher Risks of Many Cancers

Men carry a higher risk of developing many cancers than women. New research finds that the risk of some cancers could be has much as three times greater for men. The new analysis also concludes that the sharp gender disparity cannot be entirely explained by unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, poor diet, excessive alcohol and lack of regular exercise, among men.

The study, published in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society, indicates that biological differences between sexes, such as physiological, immunological, genetic, and other differences, likely play a major role in the higher cancer risks in men.

Researchers with the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, reviewed differences in cancer risk for each of 21 anatomical cancer sites among 171,274 male and 122,826 female adults, aged 50 to 71 years, who were participating in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health study from 1995 to 2011. During that time, 17,951 new cancers arose in men and 8,742 in women.

The incidence rate was lower in men only for thyroid and gallbladder cancers, and risks were 1.3- to 10.8-times higher in men than women at other anatomic sites. The highest increased risks in men were noted for esophageal cancer (a 10.8-times higher risk), larynx (a 3.5-times higher risk), gastric cardia (a 3.5-times higher risk), and bladder cancer (a 3.3-times higher risk).

Men had an increased risk of most cancers even after adjusting for a wide range of risk behaviors and carcinogenic exposures in the environment.

The study’ authors emphasize that more studies are needed to further detail any biological or genetic factors fueling these disparities.

An editorial accompanying the study states that “strategically including sex as a biological variable should be enforced along the whole cancer continuum” — from risk prediction and cancer prevention to screenings and treatments.

Only Vaccine Against Lyme Disease Enters Final Clinical-Trial Phase

Pfizer says it has begun a Phase 3 clinical trial of its vaccine candidate against Lyme disease. It is partnering with a French vaccine company, Valneva SE. The companies are recruiting about 6,000 participants, aged 5 and older, at up to 50 locations throughout Europe and the U.S.  where Lyme disease is endemic, both companies confirmed in a news release.

The study participants will get three doses of the vaccine, called VLA15, or a placebo, followed by a booster dose. The last available Lyme disease vaccine for U.S. adults, called LYMERix, was withdrawn from the market 20 years ago. The vaccine reported high efficacy rates, but users also reported adverse reactions, including arthritis.

Lyme disease is the most common disease in the United States transmitted via insect bites.  Lyme disease is mostly caused by the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, and it is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

If the phase-three study is a success, the companies state, they would likely seek official authorization in the U.S. and Europe in 2025.

“With increasing global rates of Lyme disease, providing a new option for people to help protect themselves from the disease is more important than ever,” said Annaliesa Anderson, Ph.D., senior vice president and head of Vaccine Research & Development at Pfizer, in a statement. “We hope that the data generated from the Phase 3 study will further support the positive evidence for VLA15 to date, and we are looking forward to collaborating with the research sites across the U.S. and Europe on this important trial.”

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