News/ Trends/ Analysis

Feb. 1, 2010

MT: one of best healthcare careers. Laboratory technologists
and laboratory technicians are listed as a top career for 2010 in
U.S. News & World Report's
 latest annual list of the top 50 careers,
behind X-ray technician and veterinarian. The analysis was based on the
U.S. Labor Department's latest job growth projections for 2008 to 2018.
It highlights occupations that are expected to add jobs above the
anticipated 10% average growth rate over the next decade and which will
also provide a better-than-average median income. Medical technologist
(MT), clinical laboratory scientist (CLS), and medical laboratory
technician (MLT) jobs are expected to rise 16%. The fastest job growth
will come from clinical labs, pathology labs, and physician office labs.
Last year, the pay range for a laboratory technologist was $28,420 to
$44,310, which puts overall median pay at $35,380, with some lab tech
pay packages topping $54,000.

Blood test reveals sex of unborn baby. A simple blood test can
reveal the sex of a fetus, according to researchers from the University
of Amsterdam, who published a study in the January 2010 issue of
Obstetrics and Gynecology
. The researchers sought to determine the
diagnostic accuracy of non-invasive fetal sex determination in maternal
plasma. Real-time polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR, was performed
for the SRY gene and multicopy DYS14 marker sequence. Between 2003 and
2009, women who were between eight and 10 weeks pregnant were tested;
DNA from the blood samples was examined to predict the sex of babies in
186 pregnancies. Researchers predicted 105 males and 81 females; they
were correct every time.

Unsafe practices likely caused hepatitis C outbreak.
The Las Vegas
reports that unsafe injection practices at the Endoscopy
Center of Southern Nevada and affiliated clinic Desert Shadow Endoscopy
Center, including reuse of single-patient syringes and anesthetic vials,
most likely led to as many as 115 patients contracting hepatitis C,
according to the Southern Nevada Health District's final investigative
report on the outbreak that began in December 2007. The unsafe injection
practices prompted health officials to notify more than 63,000 clinic
patients that they might have been exposed to hepatitis, HIV, and other
blood-borne diseases — the largest patient notification of its kind in U.S.
history. Costs for the health district investigation were more than
$828,000, added to the nearly $14 million to test thousands of clinic
patients and future medical costs for hepatitis treatment, the final cost
for the outbreak will range from $16 million to $21 million, the report

Infectious diseases

First case of XXDR-TB found in U.S. The first case of extremely
drug-resistant tuberculosis (XXDR-TB) in the United States was diagnosed in
a Peruvian student living in Florida. The 19-year-old studying in the United
States was diagnosed with contagious, aggressive, extremely drug-resistant
tuberculosis, which has never before been seen in the United States. This
form of drug-resistant TB is virtually impervious to all the drugs that are
used to treat the disease. XXDR-TB is so rare that only a handful of other
people in the world are thought to have had it. The Peruvian student was
quarantined at A.G. Holley, a public-health hospital in Lantana, FL, for 19
months undergoing TB treatments.

Antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Typhimurium
A new
multidrug-resistant strain of S typhimurium is causing
life-threatening disease in Africa. The new strain, ST313, is resistant to
several commonly used antibiotics, may spread from person to person, and
infects vulnerable children and adults in many regions of sub-Saharan Africa
— leading to death in up to one in four cases, according to a study
published in the Dec. 8, 2009, edition of Genome Research. A team of
scientists from the Welcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, U.K., studied
samples of the bacterial DNA extracted from blood samples of African
patients with severe symptoms of infection to produce a high-quality
reference genome sequence to find the genetic differences between ST313 and
strains associated with milder disease. Researchers say this deadly strain
has lost around one in 50 of the genes found in the typical S typhimurium
— a classic sign that it may be becoming more closely adapted to humans, and
it has acquired a block of genes that make it resistant to common
antibiotics. The team's findings also suggest that ST313 may be spreading by
a method not seen before in S typhimurium. The pathogen normally
circulates among animals and is introduced to humans through food. ST313 may
be passing predominantly from person to person.

Salmonella outbreak linked to pet frogs. A 31-state salmonella
outbreak first detected in Utah has been linked to pet frogs. The U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started a national
investigation to find the source of the outbreak after five people in Utah
were sickened by the Typhimurium strain of salmonella. In all,
85 people across several states became ill between spring 2009 and fall
2009, and nearly two-thirds reported some contact with frogs. The bacteria
was likely spread through contact with the tanks' water, not the frogs
themselves, according to the report; the bacteria were spread after people
washed frog aquariums in bathroom and kitchen sinks. Turtles have been the
source of other salmonella outbreaks, but this is the first time amphibians
have been blamed, according to the CDC.


Molecule may help block HIV transmission. Researchers say they have
discovered that the molecule surfen appears to make sexual transmission of
HIV less likely, therefore has the potential to become an ingredient in
topical microbicides that aim to reduce the likelihood of infection through
semen, according to a report to be published in an upcoming print issue of
the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Surfen is a small molecule that
interferes with the action of a factor in semen called semen-derived
enhancer of viral infection (SEVI). SEVI is thought to increase the
likelihood of HIV infection by 100,000 times in some cases because it
appears to help the virus attach to cells. Supplementing current HIV
microbicide candidates with SEVI inhibitors, such as surfen, might help
lower transmission rates of HIV, say researchers at San Francisco's
Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology.


More diseases to pass from animals to humans. Increased environmental
disruptions, global warming, globalization, and urbanization are set to
trigger new pandemics of infectious diseases, according to medical experts.
A team of scientists from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found
that nearly 45 diseases have passed from animals to humans in the past two
decades. HIV, passed from chimpanzees in West Africa more than a century
ago, is the best known example of a disease passed from animals to humans.
The H1N1 flu pandemic that emerged in Mexico in 2009 resulted from the
mixing of viruses that infected pigs, birds, and humans to create a new
pandemic strain. Researchers believe the destruction of plant and animal
habitats, the loss of species, and changes that have brought more humans
into closer contact with animals than at any stage in human history mean new
diseases from contact with animals will continue in this century.


Synthetic red blood cells developed. Scientists at University of
California-Santa Barbara, in collaboration with scientists at University of
Michigan, have developed synthetic particles that closely mimic the
characteristics and key functions of natural red blood cells, including
softness, flexibility, and the ability to carry oxygen. The synthetic red
blood cells (sRBCs) retain 90% of their oxygen-binding capacity after a
week. The sRBCs also have been shown to deliver therapeutic drugs
effectively and with controlled release, and to carry well-distributed
contrast agents for enhanced resolution in diagnostic imaging. Researchers
succeeded in synthesizing the particles by creating a polymer
doughnut-shaped template, coating the template with up to nine layers of
hemoglobin and other proteins, then removing the core template. In addition
to synthesizing particles that mimic the shape and properties of healthy
RBCs, the technique — detailed in the online edition of Proceedings of
the National Academy of Science
— can also be used to develop particles
that mimic the shape and properties of diseased cells, such as those found
in sickle-cell anemia and hereditary eliptocytosis.

New studies

Routine tests predict type 2 diabetes.
The future development of type 2 diabetes mellitus may be predictable in children through routine
pediatric exams and lab tests, according to a pair of studies in the January
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Scientists tracked
1,067 girls starting at 10 years of age in the National Growth and Health
Study (NGHS) and 822 children aged 6 to 18 years in the Princeton Follow-up
Study (PFS), and correlated common pediatric measures and tests to type 2
diabetes at ages 19 and 39 years. In the NGHS, insulin in the top fifth
percentile was the strongest type 2 diabetes predictor, while in the PFS,
body mass index and systolic blood pressure in the top fifth percentile,
parental diabetes history, glucose of at least 100 mg/dL, and high
triglycerides were predictors of future type 2 diabetes.

New findings on toxoplasmosis parasite. Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have made a new discovery about an invasive parasite that infects up to a quarter of the world's population. The study, involving the single-celled parasite Toxoplasma
, was published in the December issue of the Journal of
. People become infected by ingesting T gondii oocysts,
and once the parasite is swallowed, its tachyzoites multiply by infecting
cells and then reproducing several times within each cell. Finally, the
parasitic cargo ruptures its host cell and exits to infect new cells. Prior
studies had suggested that tachyzoites progress through five to seven
cell-division cycles over two to three days before rupturing the host cell
and initiating a new round of infection. But the Einstein team discovered
that in infected mice the multiplication cycle goes much faster: parasites
ruptured the cells in about six hours after undergoing only one or two
cell-division cycles.


Feb. 25-27.“ASCLS Clinical Laboratory Educators' Conference” at Beau Rivage Hotel, Biloxi, MS, offers educators sessions on the latest areas of science and management, the skills needed by graduates, recruitment strategies, and how to prepare students for clinical practice. Learn more at .

March 22-25. The Society of Armed Forces Medical Laboratory Scientists Meeting at the Town and Country Resort in San Diego will include breakout sessions, special meetings, workshops, and presentations. Visit .

March 24-26. The biennial CDC-APHL HIV Diagnostics Conference at the Doubletree Hotel Universal Studios in Orlando will review alternative HIV testing algorithms; new serologic, molecular, and POC HIV testing techniques; and practices for bridging lab and POCT strategies including model QA practices in CLIA-waived testing programs. Learn more at .

April 14-16. “Molecular Diagnostics 2010 — Putting MDx to the Test: How Your Lab Can Capitalize on Molecular Diagnostics” at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge (MA) will provide expert insight and advice on how labs can integrate MDx into their business strategies, given the current regulatory and business environment. Learn more at .

April 22-23. The 42nd Annual Oak Ridge Conference will be held at The Fairmont in San Jos'e, CA, and include four sessions: Diagnostic technologies for resource-limited settings; novel multiplex platforms for diagnostics; emerging detection technologies for diagnostics; and novel separation and sample prep technologies. Learn more at .

April 25-28. The 26th Annual Clinical Virology Symposium and the Annual Meeting of the Pan American Society for Clinical Virology will be held in Daytona Beach, FL, and provide a forum for the meaningful exchange of ideas dealing with viral infections, and the relationship between rapid viral diagnosis, clinical course of viral infections, and preventive and therapeutic modalities for virus infections. Learn more at .

April 27-28. The 15th Annual Executive War College at the Sheraton New Orleans is designed to help lab administrators and pathologists learn practical methods for improving the organizational performance and financial success of their labs, including lab-management methods and financial strategies for enhancing profits. Go to .

May 4-6. CLMA ThinkLab'10 will take place at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas. ThinkLab'10 will feature a variety of educational sessions specifically designed for emerging lab leaders as well as seasoned C-Level executives with more than 40 breakout sessions covering a wide range of topics including molecular diagnostics. Learn more at .

May 17-19. The Molecular Pathology Essentials Course 2010 at Hyatt Regency Atlanta will focus on the essential knowledge and current practice of clinical molecular pathology, with an emphasis on case-based examples and technologies. Register at .

July 25-29. The 2010 AACC Annual Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo at the Anaheim, CA, Anaheim Convention Center will include five plenary sessions, symposia, interactive workshops, short courses, brown bag sessions, meet the experts, chairs invited sessions, posters, and oral abstract presentations. Learn more at .


March 3, 2:00 p.m. “Customizing Quality Control for Improved Patient Safety” The frequency of running quality control (QC) plays a major role in managing patient risk. This program will provide strategies that will allow you to develop a quality control plan that is specific to your lab's workflow, minimize patient risk, ensure quality results, and minimize QC run utilization. This program is sponsored by AACC and supported, in part, by Bio-Rad Laboratories and Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics. Register at .