News Trends Analysis

Dec. 1, 2008

The Observatory

In Memoriam

The MLO staff
was notified on Oct. 23, 2008, through the kindness of one of his
professional colleagues that Gilbert Berry Schumann, MD, 62, passed away
at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, June 27, 2008, at Connecticut Hospice in
Branford, CT. Dr. Schumann was a contributor to MLO's “Tips from
the clinical experts” column, and his last entry appeared in the October
2008 issue of MLO on page 46: “Urine sediment dilution.” 

Dr. Schumann earned a medical technology diploma
from Elkhart Institute of Technology in Indiana in 1967; a BS in 1969
from Nebraska's Hiram Scott College; and his MD in 1974 from Johns
Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

During his career, Dr. Schumann was licensed in
Maryland, Ohio, Utah, Connecticut, and New York as well as in the
Province of Alberta, Canada, as a pathologist specializing in the field
of cytopathology. He founded Schumann Diagnostics Inc.; held various
faculty appointments at major universities in the United States and
Canada; and authored several textbooks, textbook chapters, and

Infectious diseases

CJD kills mother, son. Spain's Ministry of
Health officials announced in late September that the mother (early 60s)
of a Spanish man (41) who died in February from fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease (CJD) or “mad-cow” disease also had died from the illness. The
director of Spain's national research center for “mad-cow” disease says
this may be the first case in the world where two members of the same
family have died from CJD. Health officials surmise that the pair
contracted the disease before stricter controls against the disease
began in Spain in 2001. While they had similar eating habits — which
included animal organs and, perhaps, animal brains — researchers now are
trying to determine whether the two shared a genetic structure that
might have been more prone to contracting the illness. Health officials
have taken steps to avoid “mad-cow” disease from entering the food
chain, and there is no danger of contracting the disease from eating

Antibiotic overuse spikes C diff rates.
Also in late September, the Chicago Sun Times reported that,
according to experts, the overuse of antibiotics is aiding the quick
escalation of hospital-infection rates of Clostridium difficile (C
) — specifically in cases tied to an unusually toxic,
antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacteria known as NAP1. Despite the
use of two antibiotics that still work against C diff,
re-infection rates are high. Infectious-disease experts suggest that
patients with confirmed cases be put into private rooms, and healthcare
workers be made to wear gloves and gowns when treating them.

Grant for MRSA “sniffing” machine.
Analytical Nanotechnologies (ANTnano), based in northeast England,
develops equipment for detecting biochemicals and chemicals. The
company's “sniffer” machines can detect explosives, as well as diseases
and airborne contaminants, such as bird flu. The Northern Echo, a
U.K. newspaper, reports that ANTnano, with staff in England and
Singapore, received a grant from the Singapore Economic Development
Board (EDB) to develop a miniaturized machine that can “sniff” a
patient's hand to discover whether he has methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus
or MRSA. Working with Nanyang Technological
University in Singapore, the company will produce a miniaturized version
of its air-analyzing machines over the next two years, which could be
fine-tuned to detect lung diseases such as tuberculosis — and even
cancer — from a patient's breath. ANTnano was previously awarded a $10
million grant from the EDB to set up research facilities in Singapore.

HPV-induced oral cancer rising. A study by
Johns Hopkins University researchers tracked more than 30 years of
oral-cancer data from the National Cancer Institute and found that the
rate of oral cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), rather
than lifestyle habits such as smoking or chewing tobacco, has risen
steadily since 1973 and is now about even with the incidence rate for
tobacco use. A study published in May in the New England Journal of
reported the risk of developing HPV-related oral cancer for
men and women who had multiple oral-sex partners (six or more) was nine
times that of participants who had none.

New vaccines

Tamiflu resistance grows.
In mid-September, The Canadian Press reported that H1N1 virus
resistant to the Tamiflu anti-viral drug (generic: Oseltamivir) is
appearing in high numbers throughout Northern Europe at the same time it
is spreading throughout North and South America; the Caribbean; Africa;
and parts of Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Officials announced the
start of resistance testing in the Northern Hemisphere once flu season
began. As evidence of increasing resistance to the key drug Tamiflu
mounts, U.S. authorities may change advice they give doctors on which
flu drugs to use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
officials say it is unlikely that physicians will be told not to use
Oseltamivir. The CDC, however, does suggest that, when possible, greater
use of Relenza (generic: Zanamivir)
— another leading H1N1 anti-viral — will be encouraged.

New studies?

Do cell phones hurt sperm quality? A
Cleveland Clinic study published on Sept. 19 demonstrates that mobile
phones left on talk mode in a pants pocket can damage sperm quality.
Thirty-two semen samples in individual small tubes were divided into a
test group and a control group. The control group was kept under the
same conditions and temperature as the test group but was not exposed to
cell-phone emissions. The test group was placed 2.5 cm from an 850-MHz
cell phone in talk mode for one hour in order to mimic the distance
between the trouser pocket and the testes. Researchers found a decrease
in antioxidants and a significant increase in free radicals and
oxidants. Free radicals have been linked to cancer and other diseases in
humans as well as being linked to decreased sperm quality in previous
studies. Researchers acknowledge the limitations of in-lab testing, the
small sample size, and the lack of no clear explanation of this
demonstrated effect.

New prostate-cancer website.The Project to
End Prostate Cancer (formerly the National Prostate Cancer Coalition),
an organization dedicated to the eradication of a disease projected to
kill 28,600 in 2008, recently launched its website, Users
can sign up for a free e-newsletter for current information on the
disease, get a free informational DVD, and sign a petition online
calling for more federal funds for research. Another service offered by
the organization is the “Drive Against Prostate Cancer” mobile-screening
Airstream to your community.

Global diseases

Pneumonic plague death. On Nov. 2, 2007,
Eric York, a 37-year-old biologist at Arizona's Grand Canyon National
Park, was found dead of the pneumonic plague — the disease that
decimated Europe's population in the Middle Ages. This highly fatal
disease has a death rate as high as 50%, even with treatment. USA
reported that York found a dead female mountain lion whose
collar had sent out a mortality signal on Oct. 25. She bore no signs of
trauma other than blood pooled around her nose. Determined to learn why
she died and lacking a forensics lab at the park, York performed the
postmortem in his garage. Scientists speculate that when York cut into
the lion, he must have released a cloud of bacteria and breathed it in.
While plague is endemic west of the Mississippi, York had little reason
to suspect he was being exposed. He was aware that mountain lions hunt
bigger game than rodents which carry the plague bacterium; however, this
lion had kittens that had learned to hunt. Initially, York visited the
park's clinic on Oct. 30, was diagnosed with a flu-like illness, and was
sent home. Since then, the National Park Service has worked with the
CDC, in addition to state and local health departments, to identify
other diseases within the park system that could pose a risk to the 276
million people who visit yearly, as well as park employees and people
who might be exposed when park visitors and employees return home.

XDR-TB sponsor awareness campaign BD, in
cooperation with TED (technology, entertainment, design) — a group that
supports ideas by forward-thinking people — is engaged in a global-
awareness campaign on extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis XDR-TB.
While multiple drug-resistant forms of TB have been a problem for some
time, a more recent trend is the emergence of XDR-TB, where patients do
not respond to first- and second-line treatments. For more details on BD
involvement with TED, and to see world-renowned photographer James
Nachtwey's slide show on XDR-TB, go to


Audioconference now available on CD ROM:
“Lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2): Biomarker of
Inflammation,” presented June 18, with Drs. Joe McConnell and Jeff Anderson
discussing the clinical utility of this cardiovascular-risk marker, from
both analytical and clinical perspectives, can be purchased at
, or by
calling the AACC Customer Service Department at 800-892-1400 or 202-857-0717
and asking about Product #5181.

Through Jan. 23, 2009. The Association for
Laboratory Automation (ALA) is accepting abstracts for poster presentations
now through Jan. 23, 2009, for its LabAutomation2009 Conference and
Exhibition, Jan. 24 through 28, in Palm Springs, CA. Entries should describe
original research relevant to any of five program tracks. Anyone submitting
an abstract for a poster presentation is eligible to win a MacBook Air. For
guidelines/submission, visit
. For
information on LabAutomation2009, go to

Feb. 2-4.“Expanding the Platform for Molecular
Diagnostics Lab Growth and Profitability” is the subject of Washington G-2
Reports' 2009 MDx Conference at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 in Fort
Lauderdale. Gain expert insight on how labs successfully integrate molecular
diagnostics into their business strategies in the current regulatory and
business environment. To learn more and register, visit

Feb. 10-11. At the Molecular Summit 2009 at
Philadelphia's Sheraton Society Hill Hotel, meet global leaders and hear 27
speakers discuss integrated diagnostics services that combine imaging with
molecular diagnostics. Register at

April 28-29. Next year, the 14th Annual
Executive War College — a two-day program designed to help lab
administrators and pathologists learn practical methods for improving the
organizational performance and financial success of their labs — returns to
the Sheraton Hotel-New Orleans. To learn more and register, go to

May 2-5. CLMA ThinkLab '09. CLMA announced
that ThinkLab '09, sponsored by Orchard Software, launched its “Call for
Presentations” website:
. Several new educational
initiatives are slated for 2009's annual meeting to be held in the Tampa
Convention Center. The deadline for poster presentations only is
Friday, Jan. 16, 2009; the deadline for oral presentations was Aug. 22.
Education posters will be presented and awards given to the top three
posters, while all accepted abstracts will be published in Clinical
Leadership & Management Review