News Trends Analysis

Jan. 1, 2009

The Observatory

Global diseases

Future flu pandemic could cost $3 trillion.
A joint report by the United Nations and the World
Bank, “Responses to Avian Influenza and State of Pandemic Readiness,”
estimates that a flu pandemic could kill 71 million people worldwide and
push the global economy into a “major global recession” costing more
than $3 trillion. Infection-avoidance measures would generate most of
those costs. The report underlines the importance of global preparations
for a pandemic sparked by bird flu. Although human cases of H5N1
infection had fallen by half last year due to poultry-outbreak control,
World Bank economists say a human pandemic is virtually inevitable, and
is working with developing countries to improve hospital and labs to
enable better surveillance and management of avian flu and to prepare
for a possible outbreak.

TB 3,000 years older? A
PLoS One
article details the discovery of the earliest known cases
of human tuberculosis (TB) in bones — thought to be those of a mother
and baby — found submerged off the coast of Haifa, Israel. Examination
of DNA from the remains confirms that the disease is 3,000 years older
than previously thought and proves the theory that bovine TB evolved
later than human TB. An international collaborative team excavated the
9,000-year-old pre-pottery Neolithic village. The University College
London Centre for Infectious Diseases and International Health analyzed
the bones using scientific techniques that revealed DNA and cell-wall
lipids from Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the principal agent of
human TB.


Chip allows POCT. According to
ICT Results news service, scientists working with Surface Enhanced
Micro Optical Fluidic Systems — a multidisciplinary expertise consortium —
are on the verge of perfecting a low-cost, disposable cartridge that would
allow physicians to perform diagnostic tests at the point of care, and to
speed up diagnosis and treatment. The polymer-based device, the size of a
credit card, controls movement of biologic fluids, detects the presence of
specific proteins, and analyzes the results. The card moves blood, serum,
and other fluids through channels slightly wider than a human hair, and the
device uses plasmonics to determine if proteins from the sample have bonded
to the detecting surfaces inside the card. The scientists have packed light
sources and detector, waveguides, and the microfluidic system into the card.
The electronics that read the cards and display the results will be a
separate unit.

Worth noting

2008 Nobel Prize for Medicine cites HPV/HIV scientists. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2008 was jointly awarded to
Harald zur Hausen, and Francoise Barr'e-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for
identifying viruses. Zur Hausen's discovery of HPV led to an understanding
of the causes of the malignancy and paved the way for the development of the
Merck & Co.'s Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline Plc's Cervarix vaccines.
Barr'e-Sinoussi and Montagnier discovery of HIV was instrumental in the
development of drugs that enable HIV-infected patients to live almost as
long as those who do not carry the virus. The three shared the $1.4 million
prize — established in the 1895 will of Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel — which
was awarded in Stockholm on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death in


Joint Commission ruling on labs. Starting
Jan. 1, The Joint Commission's new policy states that
laboratory-accreditation decisions will no longer immediately impact
hospital accreditation. The policy, comparable to those of CAP and COLA,
means that laboratory and affiliated hospital/organization accreditation
will continue to be linked; however, an adverse lab-accreditation decision
will help prioritze the hospital's or organization's next unannounced
survey. The Commission's Executive VP says that the new approach reinforces
the importance of the laboratory in the delivery of patient care.

New public-health microbiology certification. The American Board of Bioanalysis (ABB) and the Association of Public Health
Laboratories (APHL) will offer board certification in public-health
microbiology — giving doctoral-level scientists in public-health labs
another way to qualify for certification under the Clinical Laboratory
Improvement Amendments. This particular certification is the first to
specifically examine the training and experience required to direct a state
or a large municipal public-health laboratory. Currently, these scientists
must pursue certification in one of several specialties pertinent to
hospital- or forensic-laboratory careers. The tentative date for the first
exam is Oct. 16, 2009, in Atlanta, with a second examination to follow at
the Spring 2010 APHL Annual Meeting. For more information, contact David L.
Smalley, PhD, BCLD(ABB), at 615-262-6300, or write
[email protected]

Google Flu Trends introduced. A new
public-health tool from — Google Flu Trends (
— allows anyone to learn about and track in real time current flu
activity in his own state. The online tool uses aggregating information
from search queries relating to influenza, its symptoms, and cures. The
collaboration between and the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), which provided flu-tracking data over a five-year
period, and helped validate and refine the model, ended with Google
accurately estimating flu levels one to two weeks faster than published
CDC reports during the 2007-2008 flu season. This and similar sites may
not be able to guarantee they are finding actual outbreaks, but their
inaccuracy is made up in speed, which reduces the time it takes to
discover an outbreak is crucial for combating flu.

Seeking equipment

An MLO reader, Mark Chelmowski, MD, FACP, of Milwaukee, WI, is a primary-care physician who is interested in helping a poor hospital in Vieux Fort, St. Lucia, where he has volunteered. For several years, St. Jude's Hospital has been without a chemistry analyzer that can measure glycohemoglobin levels, despite this island having the highest incidence of diabetes in the world. The point-of-care devices are too expensive to run, so Dr. Chelmowski is seeking advice on where to find a used analyzer or, possibly, how to obtain a donation of a used analyzer. If you have information that might aid the doctor in his search, please contact the MLO editor at
[email protected] . More information about St. Jude's Hospital can be found at .



Through Jan. 16, 2009: CLMA announced that ThinkLab '09, sponsored by Orchard Software, launched its “Call
for Presentations” website, ,

for 2009's annual meeting to be held May 2-5, 2009, in the Tampa
Convention Center. The deadline for poster presentations only 
is Friday, Jan. 16, 2009; Education posters will be presented and awards
given to the top three posters.

Through Jan. 23, 2009: The
Association for Laboratory Automation is accepting abstracts for poster
presentations now through Jan. 23, 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


90-minute in-depth program. “Automated Histology in the Clinical Laboratory: Best Practices and New
Technologies” with Azorides R. Morales, MD, professor/chair, Department
of Pathology at University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of
Medicine, suggests ways to streamline the histology lab while expediting
disease diagnosis and TAT via automation. To order, call 800-401-5937
ext. 2, and ask for order code 8G11R, or visit

Earn CEUs while you listen. “Planning for the
Unexpected: Disaster Preparedness for Laboratories” is captured in this
informative 90-minute program presented by Gina Potenza, CPCP, the
director of Information Systems Laboratory Alliance of Central New York.
To purchase the CD ROM, call 800-401-5937, ext. 2, and ask for order
code 8G09R, or go to


Feb. 2-4.“Expanding the Platform
for Molecular Diagnostics Lab Growth and Profitability” is the subject
of the 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 16-17. The two-day 41st Annual
Oak Ridge Conference for key diagnostics executives, lab directors at
major facilities and institutions, and academic researchers is dedicated
to exploring emerging technologies for the clinical lab. Held at the
Hyatt Regency Baltimore, attendees will interact with scientists from
academia and industry who are developing a wide range of technologies
for diagnostic testing. To learn more and register, go to

April 19-23. The 2009 Professional
Practice in Clinical Chemistry at the Hilton Alexandria Old Town in
Virginia is a comprehensive 4 1/2 -day course featuring presentations on
fundamental and state-of-the-art practices in the field of clinical
chemistry, including selected topics relevant for the emerging core
laboratory. To learn more and register, go to

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

Send meeting information to:
[email protected].MLO 
cannot guarantee print placement but will make every effort to include
items in its
e-newsletter or on its website.


Re-use of syringes in Canada. For more than a year, a Canadian nurse at Manitoba's largest health
authority improperly utilized an Accu-Check single-use finger-stick
blood-sampling device and may have exposed 17 patients to bloodborne
pathogens. In Alberta, patients were offered hepatitis and HIV tests
after syringes were re-used at a health clinic; as many as 2,700 dental
and endoscopy patients may have been exposed. As a result of a
class-action lawsuit brought against regional and federal governments,
Saskatchewan health officials are currently conducting a province-wide
investigation into the single-use syringe re-use outbreak, as well as
several incidents in which hospital employees re-used needles and
syringes to inject medications into intravenous bags.