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1.  Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Cases in the Country of Georgia: Acute Febrile Illness Surveillance Study Results 
Minimal information is available on the incidence of Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus and hantavirus infections in Georgia. From 2008 to 2011, 537 patients with fever ≥ 38°C for ≥ 48 hours without a diagnosis were enrolled into a sentinel surveillance study to investigate the incidence of nine pathogens, including CCHF virus and hantavirus. Of 14 patients with a hemorrhagic fever syndrome, 3 patients tested positive for CCHF virus immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies. Two of the patients enrolled in the study had acute renal failure. These 2 of 537 enrolled patients were the only patients in the study positive for hantavirus IgM antibodies. These results suggest that CCHF virus and hantavirus are contributing causes of acute febrile syndromes of infectious origin in Georgia. These findings support introduction of critical diagnostic approaches and confirm the need for additional surveillance in Georgia.
PMCID: PMC4125244  PMID: 24891463
2.  Etiologic Agents of Central Nervous System Infections among Febrile Hospitalized Patients in the Country of Georgia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e111393.
There is a large spectrum of viral, bacterial, fungal, and prion pathogens that cause central nervous system (CNS) infections. As such, identification of the etiological agent requires multiple laboratory tests and accurate diagnosis requires clinical and epidemiological information. This hospital-based study aimed to determine the main causes of acute meningitis and encephalitis and enhance laboratory capacity for CNS infection diagnosis.
Children and adults patients clinically diagnosed with meningitis or encephalitis were enrolled at four reference health centers. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) was collected for bacterial culture, and in-house and multiplex RT-PCR testing was conducted for herpes simplex virus (HSV) types 1 and 2, mumps virus, enterovirus, varicella zoster virus (VZV), Streptococcus pneumoniae, HiB and Neisseria meningitidis.
Out of 140 enrolled patients, the mean age was 23.9 years, and 58% were children. Bacterial or viral etiologies were determined in 51% of patients. Five Streptococcus pneumoniae cultures were isolated from CSF. Based on in-house PCR analysis, 25 patients were positive for S. pneumoniae, 6 for N. meningitidis, and 1 for H. influenzae. Viral multiplex PCR identified infections with enterovirus (n = 26), VZV (n = 4), and HSV-1 (n = 2). No patient was positive for mumps or HSV-2.
Study findings indicate that S. pneumoniae and enteroviruses are the main etiologies in this patient cohort. The utility of molecular diagnostics for pathogen identification combined with the knowledge provided by the investigation may improve health outcomes of CNS infection cases in Georgia.
PMCID: PMC4219716  PMID: 25369023
3.  Outbreak of H3N2 Influenza at a US Military Base in Djibouti during the H1N1 Pandemic of 2009 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82089.
Influenza pandemics have significant operational impact on deployed military personnel working in areas throughout the world. The US Department of Defense global influenza-like illness (ILI) surveillance network serves an important role in establishing baseline trends and can be leveraged to respond to outbreaks of respiratory illness.
We identified and characterized an operationally unique outbreak of H3N2 influenza at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti occurring simultaneously with the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 [A(H1N1)pdm09].
Enhanced surveillance for ILI was conducted at Camp Lemonnier in response to local reports of a possible outbreak during the A(H1N1)pdm09 pandemic. Samples were collected from consenting patients presenting with ILI (utilizing a modified case definition) and who completed a case report form. Samples were cultured and analyzed using standard real-time reverse transcriptase PCR (rt-RT-PCR) methodology and sequenced genetic material was phylogenetically compared to other published strains.
rt-RT-PCR and DNA sequencing revealed that 25 (78%) of the 32 clinical samples collected were seasonal H3N2 and only 2 (6%) were A(H1N1)pdm09 influenza. The highest incidence of H3N2 occurred during the month of May and 80% of these were active duty military personnel. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that sequenced H3N2 strains were genetically similar to 2009 strains from the United States of America, Australia, and South east Asia.
This outbreak highlights challenges in the investigation of influenza among deployed military populations and corroborates the public health importance of maintaining surveillance systems for ILI that can be enhanced locally when needed.
PMCID: PMC3855413  PMID: 24339995
4.  Hotel Clinic-Based Diarrheal and Respiratory Disease Surveillance in U.S. Service Members Participating in Operation Bright Star in Egypt, 2009 
We conducted clinic-based, influenza-like illness and diarrheal disease surveillance among U.S. service members participating in Operation Bright Star 2009. Epidemiologic data and samples were collected. Nasopharyngeal swab specimens were tested for viruses, and feces was tested for microbiologic, immunologic, and molecular diagnostics. A survey was used to collect self-reported data. From 1,529 surveys, 41% reported diarrheal disease and 25% reported respiratory illness (incidence rate = 62 of 100 versus 37 of 100 person-months; incidence rate ratio = 1.7, 95% confidence interval = 1.5–1.9). Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli was identified in 74% (69 of 93) of fecal samples. In the influenza-like illness case series, 17% (9 of 52) were positive for influenza A; all were positive for pandemic (pH1N1) 2009 virus. Rates of decreased work performance reported by patients with diarrhea and influenza-like illness were similar (46% versus 48%; P = 0.8). Diarrheal diseases and respiratory illness remain common among deployed military personnel, with important operational impact. Despite an ongoing influenza pandemic, diarrheal disease incidence was higher than that of respiratory illness.
PMCID: PMC3414570  PMID: 22855764
5.  Molecular Characterization of Multidrug Resistant Hospital Isolates Using the Antimicrobial Resistance Determinant Microarray 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69507.
Molecular methods that enable the detection of antimicrobial resistance determinants are critical surveillance tools that are necessary to aid in curbing the spread of antibiotic resistance. In this study, we describe the use of the Antimicrobial Resistance Determinant Microarray (ARDM) that targets 239 unique genes that confer resistance to 12 classes of antimicrobial compounds, quaternary amines and streptothricin for the determination of multidrug resistance (MDR) gene profiles. Fourteen reference MDR strains, which either were genome, sequenced or possessed well characterized drug resistance profiles were used to optimize detection algorithms and threshold criteria to ensure the microarray's effectiveness for unbiased characterization of antimicrobial resistance determinants in MDR strains. The subsequent testing of Acinetobacter baumannii, Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae hospital isolates revealed the presence of several antibiotic resistance genes [e.g. belonging to TEM, SHV, OXA and CTX-M classes (and OXA and CTX-M subfamilies) of β-lactamases] and their assemblages which were confirmed by PCR and DNA sequence analysis. When combined with results from the reference strains, ∼25% of the ARDM content was confirmed as effective for representing allelic content from both Gram-positive and –negative species. Taken together, the ARDM identified MDR assemblages containing six to 18 unique resistance genes in each strain tested, demonstrating its utility as a powerful tool for molecular epidemiological investigations of antimicrobial resistance in clinically relevant bacterial pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3723915  PMID: 23936031
6.  Detection of new SHV-12, SHV-5 and SHV-2a variants of extended spectrum Beta-lactamase in Klebsiella pneumoniae in Egypt 
Klebsiella pneumoniae outbreaks possessing extended-spectrum β-lactamase- (ESBL) mediated resistance to third-generation cephalosporins have increased significantly in hospital and community settings worldwide. The study objective was to characterize prevalent genetic determinants of TEM, SHV and CTX-M types ESBL activity in K. pneumoniae isolates from Egypt.
Sixty five ESBL-producing K. pneumoniae strains, isolated from nosocomial and community-acquired infections from 10 Egyptian University hospitals (2000–2003), were confirmed with double disc-synergy method and E-test. blaTEM, blaSHV and blaCTX-m genes were identified by PCR and DNA sequencing. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) was conducted for genotyping.
All isolates displayed ceftazidime and cefotaxime resistance. blaTEM and blaSHV genes were detected in 98% of the isolates’ genomes, while 11% carried blaCTX-m. DNA sequencing revealed plasmid-borne SHV-12,-5,-2a (17%), CTX-m-15 (11%), and TEM-1 (10%) prevalence. Among SHV-12 (n=8), one isolate displayed 100% blaSHV-12 amino acid identity, while others had various point mutations: T17G (Leu to Arg, position 6 of the enzyme: n=2); A8T and A10G (Tyr and Ile to Phe and Val, positions 3 and 4, respectively: n=4), and; A703G (Lys to Glu 235: n=1). SHV-5 and SHV-2a variants were identified in three isolates: T17G (n=1); A703G and G705A (Ser and Lys to Gly and Glu: n=1); multiple mutations at A8T, A10G, T17G, A703G and G705A (n=1). Remarkably, 57% of community-acquired isolates carried CTX-m-15. PFGE demonstrated four distinct genetic clusters, grouping strains of different genetic backgrounds.
This is the first study demonstrating the occurrence of SHV-12, SHV-5 and SHV-2a variants in Egypt, indicating the spread of class A ESBL in K. pneumoniae through different mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3723734  PMID: 23866018
7.  Influenza Risk Management: Lessons Learned from an A(H1N1) pdm09 Outbreak Investigation in an Operational Military Setting 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68639.
At the onset of an influenza pandemic, when the severity of a novel strain is still undetermined and there is a threat of introduction into a new environment, e.g., via the deployment of military troops, sensitive screening criteria and conservative isolation practices are generally recommended.
In response to elevated rates of influenza-like illness among U.S. military base camps in Kuwait, U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 partnered with local U.S. Army medical units to conduct an A(H1N1) pdm09 outbreak investigation.
Initial clinical data and nasal specimens were collected via the existent passive surveillance system and active surveillance was conducted using a modified version of the World Health Organization/U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention influenza-like illness case definition [fever (T > 100.5˚F/38˚C) in addition to cough and/or sore throat in the previous 72 hours] as the screening criteria. Samples were tested via real-time reverse-transcription PCR and sequenced for comparison to global A(H1N1) pdm09 viruses from the same time period.
The screening criteria used in Kuwait proved insensitive, capturing only 16% of A(H1N1) pdm09-positive individuals. While still not ideal, using cough as the sole screening criteria would have increased sensitivity to 73%.
The results of and lessons learned from this outbreak investigation suggest that pandemic influenza risk management should be a dynamic process (as information becomes available regarding true attack rates and associated mortality, screening and isolation criteria should be re-evaluated and revised as appropriate), and that military operational environments present unique challenges to influenza surveillance.
PMCID: PMC3707881  PMID: 23874699
8.  Multilocus Variable-Number Tandem-Repeat Analysis of Mycoplasma pneumoniae Clinical Isolates from 1962 to the Present: a Retrospective Study 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2012;50(11):3620-3626.
In this study, we evaluated a recently developed multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat (VNTR) analysis (MLVA) method for the molecular typing of Mycoplasma pneumoniae. The method is based on GeneScan analysis of five VNTR loci throughout the genome which define a specific genotype based on the number of tandem repeats within each locus. A retrospective analysis of 154 M. pneumoniae clinical isolates collected over the last 50 years and a limited (n = 4) number of M. pneumoniae-positive primary specimens acquired by the CDC was performed using MLVA. Eighteen distinct VNTR types were identified, including two previously unidentified VNTR types. Isolates from several M. pneumoniae community outbreaks within the United States were also analyzed to examine clonality of a specific MLVA type. Observed in vitro variability of the Mpn1 VNTR locus prompted further analysis, which showed multiple insertions or deletions of tandem repeats within this locus for a number of specimens and isolates. To our knowledge, this is the first report showing variation within the Mpn1 locus, thus affecting precise and reliable classification using the current MLVA typing system. The superior discriminatory capability of MLVA provides a powerful tool for greater resolution of M. pneumoniae strains and could be useful during outbreaks and epidemiological investigations.
PMCID: PMC3486201  PMID: 22952264
9.  Microevolution of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A(H5N1) Viruses Isolated from Humans, Egypt, 2007–2011 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2013;19(1):43-50.
We analyzed highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N1) viruses isolated from humans infected in Egypt during 2007–2011. All analyzed viruses evolved from the lineage of subtype H5N1 viruses introduced into Egypt in 2006; we found minimal evidence of reassortment and no exotic introductions. The hemagglutinin genes of the viruses from 2011 formed a monophyletic group within clade 2.2.1 that also included human viruses from 2009 and 2010 and contemporary viruses from poultry; this finding is consistent with zoonotic transmission. Although molecular markers suggestive of decreased susceptibility to antiviral drugs were detected sporadically in the neuraminidase and matrix 2 proteins, functional neuraminidase inhibition assays did not identify resistant viruses. No other mutations suggesting a change in the threat to public health were detected in the viral proteomes. However, a comparison of representative subtype H5N1 viruses from 2011 with older subtype H5N1 viruses from Egypt revealed substantial antigenic drift.
PMCID: PMC3563221  PMID: 23260983
H5N1 avian influenza virus; evolution; highly pathogenic; Egypt; poultry; genomics; influenza; viruses; highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N1); subtype H5N1; avian influenza; zoonoses
10.  Challenges of Establishing the Correct Diagnosis of Outbreaks of Acute Febrile Illnesses in Africa: The Case of a Likely Brucella Outbreak among Nomadic Pastoralists, Northeast Kenya, March–July 2005 
An outbreak of acute febrile illness was reported among Somali pastoralists in remote, arid Northeast Kenya, where drinking raw milk is common. Blood specimens from 12 patients, collected mostly in the late convalescent phase, were tested for viral, bacterial, and parasitic pathogens. All were negative for viral and typhoid serology. Nine patients had Brucella antibodies present by at least one of the tests, four of whom had evidence suggestive of acute infection by the reference serologic microscopic agglutination test. Three patients were positive for leptospiral antibody by immunoglobulin M enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and two were positive for malaria. Although sensitive and specific point-of-care testing methods will improve diagnosis of acute febrile illness in developing countries, challenges of interpretation still remain when the outbreaks are remote, specimens collected too late, and positive results for multiple diseases are obtained. Better diagnostics and tools that can decipher overlapping signs and symptoms in such settings are needed.
PMCID: PMC3205640  PMID: 22049048
11.  In vitro antibiotic susceptibility testing of Brucella isolates from Egypt between 1999 and 2007 and evidence of probable rifampin resistance 
Brucellosis poses a significant public health problem in Mediterranean countries, including Egypt. Treatment of this disease is often empirical due to limited information on the antibiotic susceptibility profiles of Brucella spp. in this region of the world. The aim of this study was to determine the antibiotic susceptibility profiles of Brucella blood isolates in Egypt, a country endemic for brucellosis.
Brucella spp. isolates were identified from the blood cultures of acute febrile illness (AFI) patients presenting to a network of infectious disease hospitals from 1999–2007. Minimum inhibitory concentrations were determined for tetracycline, gentamicin, doxycycline, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, streptomycin, ceftriaxone, ciprofloxacin and rifampin using the E-test. Interpretations were made according to Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) guidelines.
A total of 355 Brucella spp. isolates were analyzed. All were susceptible to tetracycline, doxycycline, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, streptomycin and ciprofloxacin; probable resistance to rifampin and ceftriaxone was observed among 277 (64%) and 7 (2%) of the isolates, respectively. Percentages of isolates showing probable resistance to rifampin were significantly lower before 2001 than in the following years (7% vs. >81%, p < 0.01).
Despite the high burden of brucellosis in Egypt and frequent empirical treatment, isolates have remained susceptible to the majority of tested antibiotics. However, this is the first report of high rates of probable resistance to rifampin among Brucella isolates from Egypt. Patients should be closely monitored while following standard treatment regimens. Continued surveillance, drug susceptibility studies and updated CLSI interpretive criteria are needed to monitor and update antibiotic prescribing policies for brucellosis.
PMCID: PMC3464789  PMID: 22929054
Brucella; Brucellosis; MIC; Rifampin; Ceftriaxone; E-test; Egypt
12.  Cross-Species Surveillance of Leptospira in Domestic and Peri-Domestic Animals in Mahalla City, Gharbeya Governorate, Egypt 
A survey of 179 animals (black rats, dogs, sheep, buffaloes, cattle, donkeys, weasels, and cats) for Leptospira infection was conducted in Mahalla City (Lower Egypt). Blood, urine, and kidney were collected and tested by culture, microscopic agglutination test (MAT), and/or polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Among rats, 26% were positive by PCR, including 7% that were also positive by culture for L. interrogans serovars Grippotyphosa, Pyrogenes, and Icterohaemorrhagiae. L. borpetersenii serovar Polonica was isolated for the first time in Egypt in three rats. MAT titers ≥ 1:800 were observed in 11% of rats and 12% of dogs. L. interrogans serovar Grippotyphosa was detected in one cat. Sheep and donkeys were negative for leptospirosis by all methods. Buffaloes and cattle were seropositive in 20% and 44% of animals, respectively. Data indicate that several pathogenic serovars are circulating in the animals, which may pose exposure risks and account for high rates of acute febrile illness.
PMCID: PMC3042818  PMID: 21363980
13.  Novel Astroviruses in Children, Egypt 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2011;17(12):2391-2393.
PMCID: PMC3311207  PMID: 22172277
Novel astrovirus MLB1; VA2; Egypti; children; stool; diarrhea; Middle East
14.  Capacity-building efforts by the AFHSC-GEIS program 
BMC Public Health  2011;11(Suppl 2):S4.
Capacity-building initiatives related to public health are defined as developing laboratory infrastructure, strengthening host-country disease surveillance initiatives, transferring technical expertise and training personnel. These initiatives represented a major piece of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, Division of Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System (AFHSC-GEIS) contributions to worldwide emerging infectious disease (EID) surveillance and response. Capacity-building initiatives were undertaken with over 80 local and regional Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Defense, as well as other government entities and institutions worldwide. The efforts supported at least 52 national influenza centers and other country-specific influenza, regional and U.S.-based EID reference laboratories (44 civilian, eight military) in 46 countries worldwide. Equally important, reference testing, laboratory infrastructure and equipment support was provided to over 500 field sites in 74 countries worldwide from October 2008 to September 2009. These activities allowed countries to better meet the milestones of implementation of the 2005 International Health Regulations and complemented many initiatives undertaken by other U.S. government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State.
PMCID: PMC3092414  PMID: 21388564
15.  Comparison of Two Multiple-Locus Variable-Number Tandem-Repeat Analysis Methods for Molecular Strain Typing of Human Brucella melitensis Isolates from the Middle East▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2009;47(7):2226-2231.
Brucella species are highly monomorphic, with minimal genetic variation among species, hindering the development of reliable subtyping tools for epidemiologic and phylogenetic analyses. Our objective was to compare two distinct multiple-locus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA) subtyping methods on a collection of 101 Brucella melitensis isolates from sporadic human cases of brucellosis in Egypt (n = 83), Qatar (n = 17), and Libya (n = 1). A gel-based MLVA technique, MLVA-15IGM, was compared to an automated capillary electrophoresis-based method, MLVA-15NAU, with each MLVA scheme examining a unique set of variable-number tandem repeats. Both the MLVAIGM and MLVANAU methods were highly discriminatory, resolving 99 and 101 distinct genotypes, respectively, and were able to largely separate genotypes from Egypt and Qatar. The MLVA-15NAU scheme presented higher strain-to-strain diversity in our test population than that observed with the MLVA-15IGM assay. Both schemes were able to genetically correlate some strains originating from the same hospital or region within a country. In addition to comparing the genotyping abilities of these two schemes, we also compared the usability, limitations, and advantages of the two MLVA systems and their applications in the epidemiological genotyping of human B. melitensis strains.
PMCID: PMC2708484  PMID: 19439543
16.  Hantavirus Infection in the Republic of Georgia 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2009;15(9):1489-1491.
We describe a laboratory-confirmed case of hantavirus infection in the Republic of Georgia. Limited information is available about hantavirus infections in the Caucasus, although the infection has been reported throughout Europe and Russia. Increasing awareness and active disease surveillance contribute to our improved understanding of the geographic range of this pathogen.
PMCID: PMC2819886  PMID: 19788822
Hantavirus; hantavirus infections; viruses; Georgia; acute febrile illness; dispatch
17.  Antimicrobial Susceptibilities of Geographically Diverse Clinical Human Isolates of Leptospira▿  
Although antimicrobial therapy of leptospirosis has been studied in a few randomized controlled clinical studies, those studies were limited to specific regions of the world and few have characterized infecting strains. A broth microdilution technique for the assessment of antibiotic susceptibility has been developed at Brooke Army Medical Center. In the present study, we assessed the susceptibilities of 13 Leptospira isolates (including recent clinical isolates) from Egypt, Thailand, Nicaragua, and Hawaii to 13 antimicrobial agents. Ampicillin, cefepime, azithromycin, and clarithromycin were found to have MICs below the lower limit of detection (0.016 μg/ml). Cefotaxime, ceftriaxone, imipenem-cilastatin, penicillin G, moxifloxacin, ciprofloxacin, and levofloxacin had MIC90s between 0.030 and 0.125 μg/ml. Doxycycline and tetracycline had the highest MIC90s: 2 and 4 μg/ml, respectively. Doxycycline and tetracycline were noted to have slightly higher MICs against isolates from Egypt than against strains from Thailand or Hawaii; otherwise, the susceptibility patterns were similar. There appears to be possible variability in susceptibility to some antimicrobial agents among strains, suggesting that more extensive testing to look for geographic variability should be pursued.
PMCID: PMC2493142  PMID: 18411316

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