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1.  The spatiotemporal association of non-prescription retail sales with cases during the 2009 influenza pandemic in Great Britain 
BMJ Open  2014;4(4):e004869.
Objective
To assess whether retail sales of non-prescription products can be used for syndromic surveillance and whether it can detect influenza activity at different spatial scales. A secondary objective was to assess whether changes in purchasing behaviour were related to public health advice or levels of media or public interest.
Setting
The UK.
Participants
National and regional influenza case estimates and retail sales from a major British supermarket.
Outcome measures
Weekly, seasonally adjusted sales of over-the-counter symptom remedies and non-pharmaceutical products; recommended as part of the advice offered by public health agencies; were compared with weekly influenza case estimates. Comparisons were made at national and regional spatial resolutions. We also compared sales to national measures of contemporaneous media output and public interest (Internet search volume) related to the pandemic.
Results
At a national scale there was no significant correlation between retail sales of symptom remedies and cases for the whole pandemic period in 2009. At the regional scale, a minority of regions showed statistically significant positive correlations between cases and sales of adult ‘cold and flu’ remedies and cough remedies (3.2%, 5/156, 3.8%, 6/156), but a greater number of regions showed a significant positive correlation between cases and symptomatic remedies for children (35.6%, 55/156). Significant positive correlations between cases and sales of thermometers and antiviral hand gels/wash were seen at both spatial scales (Cor 0.477 (95% CI 0.171 to 0.699); 0.711 (95% CI 0.495 to 0.844)). We found no significant association between retail sales and media reporting or Internet search volume.
Conclusions
This study provides evidence that the British public responded appropriately to health messaging about hygiene. Non-prescription retail sales at a national level are not useful for the detection of cases. However, at finer spatial scales, in particular age-groups, retail sales may help augment existing surveillance and merit further study.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-004869
PMCID: PMC4010812  PMID: 24780494
Influenza; Syndromic Surveillance; Outbreak
2.  Efficacy of human rotavirus vaccine against severe gastroenteritis in Malawian children in the first two years of life: a randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trial 
Vaccine  2012;30(0 1):A36-A43.
Rotavirus gastroenteritis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality among African infants and young children. A phase III, placebo-controlled, multi-centre clinical trial of a live, oral G1P[8] human rotavirus vaccine (RIX4414) undertaken in Malawi and South Africa significantly reduced the incidence of severe rotavirus gastroenteritis in the first year of life. We now report on vaccine efficacy in the Malawi cohort of children who were followed into the second year of life. A total of 1,773 healthy infants were enrolled in Blantyre, Malawi into three groups. Two groups received three doses of RIX4414 or placebo at age 6, 10, and 14 weeks and the third group received placebo at 6 weeks and RIX4414 at age 10 and 14 weeks. Subjects were followed by weekly home visits for episodes of gastroenteritis until 1 year of age, and were then re-consented for further follow-up to 18-24 months of age. Severity of gastroenteritis episodes was graded according to the Vesikari scoring system. Seroconversion for anti-rotavirus IgA was determined on a subset of children by using ELISA on pre- and post-vaccine blood samples. Rotavirus VP7 (G) and VP4 (P) genotypes were determined by RT-PCR. A total of 70/1030 (6.8%, 95% CI 5.3 - 8.5) subjects in the pooled (2 dose plus 3 dose) RIX4414 group compared with 53/483 (11.0%, 8.3 – 14.1) subjects in the placebo group developed severe rotavirus gastroenteritis in the entire follow-up period (Vaccine Efficacy 38.1% (9.8 – 57.3). The point estimate of efficacy in the second year of life (17.6%; −59.2 – 56.0) was lower than in the first year of life (49.4%; 19.2 – 68.3). There were non-significant trends towards a higher efficacy in the second year of life among children who received the three-dose schedule compared with the two-dose schedule, and a higher anti-rotavirus IgA seroresponse rate in the three-dose RIX4414 group. Rotavirus strains detected included genotype G12 (31%); G9 (23%); and G8 (18%); only 18% of strains belonged to the G1P[8] genotype. While the optimal dosing schedule of RIX4414 in African infants requires further investigation, vaccination with RIX4414 significantly reduced the incidence of severe gastroenteritis caused by diverse rotavirus strains in an impoverished African population with high rotavirus disease burden in the first two years of life.
doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2011.09.120
PMCID: PMC3982044  PMID: 22520135
Gastroenteritis; Rotavirus; Vaccine; Genotypes
3.  Molecular characterization of rotavirus strains detected during a clinical trial of a human rotavirus vaccine in Blantyre, Malawi 
Vaccine  2012;30(0 1):A140-A151.
The human, G1P[8] rotavirus vaccine (Rotarix) significantly reduced severe rotavirus gastroenteritis episodes in a clinical trial in South Africa and Malawi, but vaccine efficacy was lower in Malawi (49.5%) than reported in South Africa (76.9%) and elsewhere. The aim of this study was to examine the molecular relationships of circulating wild-type rotaviruses detected during the clinical trial in Malawi to RIX4414 (the strain contained in Rotarix) and to common human rotavirus strains. Of 88 rotavirus-positive, diarrhoeal stool specimens, 43 rotaviruses exhibited identifiable RNA migration patterns when examined by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The genes encoding VP7, VP4, VP6 and NSP4 of 5 representative strains possessing genotypes G12P[6], G1P[8], G9P[8], and G8P[4] were sequenced. While their VP7 (G) and VP4 (P) genotype designations were confirmed, the VP6 (I) and NSP4 (E) genotypes were either I1E1 or I2E2, indicating that they were of human rotavirus origin. RNA-RNA hybridization using 21 culture-adapted strains showed that Malawian rotaviruses had a genomic RNA constellation common to either the Wa-like or DS-1 like human rotaviruses. Overall, the Malawi strains appear similar in their genetic make-up to rotaviruses described in countries where vaccine efficacy is greater, suggesting that the lower efficacy in Malawi is unlikely to be explained by the diversity of circulating strains.
doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2011.09.119
PMCID: PMC3982048  PMID: 22520123
Rotavirus; vaccine; genotype; strain diversity; genogroup
4.  Reply to Pawar et al 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2014;210(1):161-163.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jiu034
PMCID: PMC4054897  PMID: 24453262
5.  Population-level antibody estimates to novel influenza A/H7N9 
The Journal of infectious diseases  2013;208(4):554-558.
There are no contemporary data available describing human immunity to novel influenza A/H7N9. Using 1723 prospectively collected serum samples in southern Vietnam, we tested for antibodies to five avian influenza antigens using a protein microarray. General-population antibody titers against subtype H7 virus are higher than antibody titers against subtype H5, and lower than titers against H9. The highest titers were observed for human influenza subtypes. Titers to avian influenza antigens increased with age and with geometric mean antibody titer to human influenza antigens. There were no titer differences between the urban and the rural location in our study.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jit224
PMCID: PMC3719906  PMID: 23687225
6.  Population-Level Antibody Estimates to Novel Influenza A/H7N9 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;208(4):554-558.
There are no contemporary data available describing human immunity to novel influenza A/H7N9. Using 1723 prospectively collected serum samples in southern Vietnam, we tested for antibodies to 5 avian influenza virus antigens, using a protein microarray. General-population antibody titers against subtype H7 virus are higher than antibody titers against subtype H5 and lower than titers against H9. The highest titers were observed for human influenza virus subtypes. Titers to avian influenza virus antigens increased with age and with geometric mean antibody titer to human influenza virus antigens. There were no titer differences between the urban and the rural location in our study.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jit224
PMCID: PMC3719906  PMID: 23687225
influenza; serology; H7N9; pandemic; microarray
7.  Human rotavirus vaccine Rotarix™ provides protection against diverse circulating rotavirus strains in African infants: a randomized controlled trial 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:213.
Background
Rotaviruses are the most important cause of severe acute gastroenteritis worldwide in children <5 years of age. The human, G1P[8] rotavirus vaccine Rotarix™ significantly reduced severe rotavirus gastroenteritis episodes in a Phase III clinical trial conducted in infants in South Africa and Malawi. This paper examines rotavirus vaccine efficacy in preventing severe rotavirus gastroenteritis, during infancy, caused by the various G and P rotavirus types encountered during the first rotavirus-season.
Methods
Healthy infants aged 5–10 weeks were enrolled and randomized into three groups to receive either two (10 and 14 weeks) or three doses of Rotarix™ (together forming the pooled Rotarix™ group) or three doses of placebo at a 6,10,14-week schedule. Weekly home visits were conducted to identify gastroenteritis episodes. Rotaviruses were detected by ELISA and genotyped by RT-PCR and nucleotide sequencing. The percentage of infants with severe rotavirus gastroenteritis caused by the circulating G and P types from 2 weeks post-last dose until one year of age and the corresponding vaccine efficacy was calculated with 95% CI.
Results
Overall, 4939 infants were vaccinated and 4417 (pooled Rotarix™ = 2974; placebo = 1443) were included in the per protocol efficacy cohort. G1 wild-type was detected in 23 (1.6%) severe rotavirus gastroenteritis episodes from the placebo group. This was followed in order of detection by G12 (15 [1%] in placebo) and G8 types (15 [1%] in placebo). Vaccine efficacy against G1 wild-type, G12 and G8 types were 64.1% (95% CI: 29.9%; 82%), 51.5% (95% CI:-6.5%; 77.9%) and 64.4% (95% CI: 17.1%; 85.2%), respectively. Genotype P[8] was the predominant circulating P type and was detected in 38 (2.6%) severe rotavirus gastroenteritis cases in placebo group. The remaining circulating P types comprised of P[4] (20 [1.4%] in placebo) and P[6] (13 [0.9%] in placebo). Vaccine efficacy against P[8] was 59.1% (95% CI: 32.8%; 75.3%), P[4] was 70.9% (95% CI: 37.5%; 87.0%) and P[6] was 55.2% (95% CI: -6.5%; 81.3%)
Conclusions
Rotarix™ vaccine demonstrated efficacy against severe gastroenteritis caused by diverse circulating rotavirus types. These data add to a growing body of evidence supporting heterotypic protection provided by Rotarix™.
Trial registration number
NCT00241644
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-213
PMCID: PMC3462149  PMID: 22974466

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