News in Brief: Week of May 26-30

June 03, 2014 10:15 am News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

Further Testing Reveals Suspected MERS Case Unconfirmed

On May 28, the CDC announced that after additional testing, the agency has determined that the Illinois man believed to have contracted Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection from contact with the first U.S. patient diagnosed with MERS-CoV infection was not actually infected.

The Illinois resident, a business associate who had extended contact with the first U.S. patient to contract the infection, tested negative for active MERS-CoV infection using polymerase chain reaction in the days after that interaction. But when the CDC conducted serology testing, preliminary results indicated that the man appeared to be positive for MERS-CoV antibodies.

"The initial ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and IFA (indirect fluorescent antibody) serology results indicated the possibility that the Illinois resident had been previously infected with MERS-CoV," said David Swerdlow, M.D., who is leading the CDC’s MERS-CoV response, in a news release(

CDC scientists have since tested additional blood samples and completed the more definitive neutralizing antibody serology test, which requires at least five days for results. Based on these final results, the CDC has concluded that the Illinois resident was not previously infected with MERS-CoV.

AAFP Seeks Extension of, Continued Funding for Medicaid Parity Program

Seeking to ensure the continuation of enhanced Medicaid payment rates for primary care physicians providing specific evaluation and management and vaccine administration services, the AAFP recently sent a letter to U.S. House and Senate leaders, asking them to extend the expiration date for the Medicaid-Medicare parity provision enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Accountable Care Act.

As it stands now, federal funding for the parity program will expire on Dec. 31, 2014, and the AAFP and other medical organizations are seeking to extend the funding period through 2016. The letter also urges lawmakers to permit OB/Gyns to be eligible for the increased payment if they meet specific requirements, pointing out that these specialists are often the sole primary care physicians many women see during their reproductive years. In addition, nearly half of all births in the United States are financed by Medicaid.

Medicaid finances health care for an estimated 60 million individuals, but historically low payment rates for physicians create barriers to access for individuals who need care. On average, payments for Medicaid services are two-thirds the average Medicare amounts for the same services.

Study Confirms Physical Activity Helps Older Adults Stay Mobile

The Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study( found that a structured, moderate-intensity physical activity program reduced so-called mobility disability in older adults. The study findings supported the researchers' hypothesis that the benefits of a long-term, structured physical activity program outweighed those seen with implementation of a more traditional health education program.

Researchers randomized 1,635 sedentary men and women ages 70-89 who had physical limitations to receive either a structured, moderate-intensity physical activity program or a health education program. Participants in the physical activity program experienced significant improvements in walking speed and physical performance measures.

The study noted that no trial, to the researchers' knowledge, had previously conclusively tested whether physical activity could prevent or delay the onset of mobility disability over an extended follow-up period.

Government Launches Pain Research Database

On May 27, six federal agencies launched the Interagency Pain Research Portfolio database( to offer comprehensive information about pain research and training the federal government is conducting. Database users can search more than 1,200 research projects.

“This database will provide the public and the research community with an important tool to learn more about the breadth and details of pain research supported across the federal government,” said Linda Porter, policy adviser for pain at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in an NIH news release( “They can search for individual research projects or sets of projects grouped by themes uniquely relevant to pain. It also can be helpful in identifying potential collaborators by searching for topic areas of interest or for investigators.”

Four of the six agencies -- the NIH, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the CDC, and the FDA -- actually helped developed the database. The other two agencies involved in the launch are the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.