CRISPR named ‘Breakthrough of the Year’ by Science magazineDec212015

A gene-editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9 was voted by the editors of the American journal Science as the most important research breakthrough of 2015. A day earlier, Nature named the Chinese researcher Junjiu Huang one of the 10 people who mattered in 2015 for being the first to use the CRISPR system to edit the DNA of (non-viable) human embryos.

Last month, researchers from UC Irvine and UC San Diego showed how mosquitoes genetically modified using the CRISPR system can be programmed to fight malaria in their bodies and pass that trait to 97% of their offspring. And just a few weeks ago, hundreds of geneticists, biologists, ethicists and scientific policymakers convened in Washington for a three-day conference to address the ethics of using this powerful — and controversial — technology.

Read more about CRISPR-Cas9 

Watch a video created by researchers at MIT to help explain the CRISPR-Cas9 method for genome editing..



Update: Bayer has just announced a partnership with CRISPR technologies.


Avian Influenza Bulletin – ‘tis the Season ReminderDec162015


H7N9 15798_cropWe are sending this pre-holiday bulletin as a reminder that the first three importations from China to North America of human infections with avian influenza (H5N1 and H7N9) were reported by Canada in early January 2014 (n=1) and 2015 (n=2), following the Christmas holiday period.

This includes a young adult from Alberta who acquired avian influenza A(H5N1) infection while in Beijing, China between December 6 and 27, 2013. Upon return to Canada, this patient was hospitalized with pneumonia, gastroenteritis and encephalitis and died in early January 2014.  No poultry contact was identified while abroad. See:

In addition, a married couple from British Columbia acquired avian influenza A(H7N9) while traveling abroad in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Fujian province between December 29, 2014 and January 11, 2015. They recalled seeing live poultry and copious droppings while visiting Fujian on January 8, 2015 but recollected no other poultry contact. Both experienced typical influenza-like illness upon their return to Canada, and were managed as outpatients. Their avian influenza H7N9 infections were fortuitously recognized because of travel history and detection of non-subtypeable influenza A in respiratory specimens submitted to the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) Public Health Laboratory.  See: 

Recent Trends – H5N1 and H7N9

H7N9 19669_loresSince its emergence in February 2013, H7N9 has followed a winter seasonal pattern, typical of both human and avian influenza viruses, with most cases occurring between October and May each year and generally peaking in January. A fourth wave of H7N9 activity appears to have recently begun in China, notably involving the eastern provinces of China as previously highlighted. Since October 2015, a total of 10 cases of H7N9 have been reported, including six new cases in the past week. These recent cases were reported in Zhejiang (5), Guangdong (1), Anhui (1), and Hunan (3) provinces, all of which have reported cases during the three previous seasonal waves.  Overall, the epidemiological pattern of avian influenza H7N9 cases is unchanged from previous updates with older adults most affected (generally older than observed with H5N1). Exposure to poultry remains the major risk factor with only limited instances of human-to-human transmission in close contact settings. As of November 13, 2015, a total of 681 human cases of H7N9 and at least 275 deaths (case fatality: 40%) have been reported to the World Health Organization since first emergence in the human population in early 2013. This total does not include the six most recently reported cases (bringing the unofficial tally to 687 cases), but does include four cases reported from Taipei, 13 cases reported from Hong Kong, one case reported from Malaysia, and the two cases reported from Canada in January 2015 described above.

Most H5N1 cases globally since 2010 (256/376; 68%) have been reported from Egypt, rather than China where

Action and Advice

Clinicians should remain vigilant for importation of suspect human cases of avian influenza to Canada, querying patients with acute respiratory illness, particularly if accompanied by severe or unusual features, about possible travel in the two weeks prior to illness onset. Where the index of suspicion is raised, clinicians should notify their local health authority/Medical Health Officer without delay and consult a virologist or microbiologist at the BC Centre for Disease Control Public Health Laboratory for advice related to diagnostic testing, clearly indicating relevant travel or exposure history.  Follow strict infection prevention and control guidelines when collecting respiratory specimens.

Cases should be managed in respiratory isolation with contact and droplet precautions. Airborne precautions are warranted in the event of aerosol-generating procedures or conditions. Facilities should be mindful of the protection of other patients and visitors, in addition to healthcare workers, to minimize nosocomial transmission and risk.

Additional Resources

H5N1 Case Reports by Country and Year: 

H7N9 Case Definition –

ERV/SARI Case Report Form –

Case Management Guidelines –

Interim Antiviral Treatment Guidelines –



Quebec offers HPV vaccine to boysDec142015

The [Quebec] provincial government is changing a seven-year-old policy and will begin offering HPV vaccines without charge to young men.

Starting in January 2016, men aged 26 and under who have sexual relations with other men will be eligible to get the vaccine against the human papilloma virus.

Next school year, in September 2016, boys in grade 4 will also be offered the HPV vaccine. Parents of those aged 13 and under need to give their consent before a child is vaccinated.

Read the full article on


At the same time, concerns over the safety of Gardisil have been growing among the public in Europe, after more than 100 young women in Ireland reported side effects after receiving the vaccine. 


However, Health Canada says a review of international research data suggests the HPV vaccine Gardasil can be safely used and there are no new safety risks associated with its use.


Possible TB exposure in U.S. hospitalDec142015

Tuberculosis 18138_smOver 1,000 people, including 350 infants, may have been exposed to tuberculosis in the maternity wing of a hospital in California after an active case of the disease was diagnosed in a nurse, hospital officials said on Sunday.

The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif., said it was notified in mid-November that an employee who worked “in the area of the newborn nursery” had been given the diagnosis, with the potential to infect hospital staff and patients, including the newborns. The potential exposure occurred between August and November, it said.

Hospital officials said that as many as 1,026 people may have been exposed to the disease: 350 infants, 308 employees and 368 parents, primarily mothers. Hospital officials said they had identified all patients, staff members and visitors who might have been exposed, and were contacting each one.

Read the full story on The New York Times website