News/ Trends/ Analysis

June 1, 2010

UNM test participants at risk of HIV, hepatitis. Dozens of people given free blood-glucose tests are at risk of having been exposed to HIV and hepatitis B and C due to the improper administration of the testing devices. University of New Mexico (UNM) School of Medicine officials say students from the school's physician assistant program did not properly change needles on devices used for blood-glucose testing conducted April 24 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. After the event, it was discovered that the students also failed to keep records, so the school does not have the names of those potentially infected. UNM is working with the Indian Health Service, the New Mexico Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to track down the estimated 51 to 55 people who participated in the free testing event during the American Indian Week Pueblo Days at the cultural center that attracted more than 1,600 international visitors. Learn more at

Rare staph infection shows up in Pennsylvania Hospital. A patient at Pennsylvania Hospital has been found to have the vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA), a rare form of staph infection possibly caused by the overuse of the antibiotic vancomycin. Hospital officials say the patient did not catch the bacterial infection at the University of Pennsylvania-owned hospital but was transferred from a Delaware hospital and was known to have methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus when she was admitted to Pennsylvania Hospital, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The patient has remained in contact isolation since admission. This VRSA case is the first reported since 2007, when two cases were reported, according to CDC data. Eleven VRSA infection cases have so far been reported nationally.

Healthcare workers at risk of chemical illness/injury. Healthcare workers are at risk from the chemicals widely used in medical facilities to prevent microbial colonization and infections, the CDC says. But the risk is likely to be low and the effects of reported exposures were typically mild and temporary, the agency reports in the May 14 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The analysis looked at data from California, Louisiana, Michigan, and Texas for 2002 through 2007. During that time, the agency found, there were 401 cases of work-related illness — including one fatality — associated with antimicrobial pesticide (e.g., sterilizers, disinfectants, and sanitizers) exposures in healthcare facilities. The reported mechanism of injury usually was splashes/spills (51%). The eyes were the most common organ/system affected (55%). And only 15% of the 265 persons who had exposures while handling antimicrobial pesticides reported using eye protection. The CDC warns that healthcare facilities should educate workers about antimicrobial pesticide hazards, promote the use of personal protective equipment, and implement effective risk communication strategies to prevent bystander exposure.

New tools

Blood banking webinar on CD. The “Transfusion & Blood Management: Practical Advice on How to Save Blood, Save Dollars and Save Lives” audioconference discusses the growing concerns about patient safety, risk management, and medical-legal liability for transfusion therapy. New evidence about transfusion therapy suggests the risks of transfusion have been underestimated and the benefits overestimated. This has lead to an imbalance in risk-benefit decisions and new blood-management performance measures from the Joint Commission. The recording is available on CD to MLO readers using the discount code 10DISC. Learn more at

APIC develops tool to assess infection prevention. The “IP Program Evaluation Tool” developed by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) will help infection preventionists assess the resources needed in their professional environments and make the business case to properly fund infection-prevention (IP) programs. The tool provides a method of determining the appropriate mix of infection prevention resources within the current healthcare environment. Presented in six sections, it offers a flexible approach that takes into account the enormous variation in facility demographics, services offered, personnel, electronic-surveillance tools, quality initiatives, and job function of the infection preventionist. Learn more at

New studies

Even a little lead may damage kids' kidneys. Small amounts of lead in the bodies of healthy children and teens — well below the levels defined as “concerning” by the CDC — may worsen kidney function, according to a Johns Hopkins Children's Center study published in the Jan. 11 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. In 1991, the CDC reduced the lead level “of concern” for children from 30 ug/dL to 10 ug/dL of blood, but the study's findings suggest that levels below 10 ug/dL may present a health risk. Of the 769 healthy children and teens ages 12 to 20 in the study, more than 99% had lead levels below 10 ug/dL, with an average level of 1.5 ug/dL. Those with lead levels in the upper quarter of the normal range appeared to have worse kidney function than children with lower lead levels.

Medical supply costs on the rise. The prices of many products used in healthcare are expected to begin to escalate, according to an April 5 report by Premier healthcare alliance, a hospital- and health system-owned data research and analysis center. According to the organization's Economic Outlook report, the cost of clinical laboratory supplies will grow by 3.9%. The researchers say prices for the raw materials used in making lab and surgical supplies are starting to rise in countries such as China and India, and the economic recovery in countries that produce much of the raw materials needed to manufacture medical supplies, combined with expected increases in the value of the dollar, likely will lead to the price growth.

Blood test for schizophrenia possible. A blood test for diagnosing schizophrenia could be available this year, according to an article in the Jan. 18, 2010, issue of Chemical & Engineering News, the American Chemical Society's news magazine. The disorder affects more than 2 million people in the United States and millions more worldwide. The article highlights ground-breaking research by a group of scientists in the United Kingdom indicating that 40% of the chemical changes in the brains of schizophrenia patients also have abnormal levels of certain proteins in other body parts. The U.K. scientists are studying these biomarkers in the skin, immune cells, and blood of patients to provide a real-time picture of the disease.

Earlier diabetes screening is cost effective. According to a new study, published in the March 30 online edition of The Lancet, screening people between the ages of 30 and 45 for type 2 diabetes is more beneficial than the current recommendation that screening for type 2 diabetes start at age 45. Early screening has not only been deemed advantageous to the patients but is also cost effective. The researchers found that all screening strategies beginning at age 30 effectively reduced mortality rates, heart attacks, and other diabetes-related complications in a cost-effective manner. When screening began between ages 30 and 45, the average cost per quality-adjusted year of life was $10,500, compared to $15,509 when screening began at age 45.

Proteomic blood analysis may help diagnose early-stage ovarian cancer. Non-invasive contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging, combined with proteomic analyses of blood samples may help physicians identify early-stage ovarian cancer and save the lives of many women, according to an article published in the February issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology. The study of proteomics and new analytical techniques using mass spectrometry has led to the discovery of hundreds of unique proteins that may serve as biomarkers and aid in the detection of early-stage cancer. Researchers at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN, have discovered that an inexpensive, non-invasive medical-imaging technique called contrast-enhanced ultrasound may play a complementary role to confirming or refuting newly discovered biomarkers' ability to accurately detect early-stage ovarian cancer. When proteomics and ultrasound are used in combination, the authors say, diagnosing early-stage disease is more likely.

New pancreatic cancer test may lead to earlier diagnosis. Researchers from the Garden State Cancer Center in New Jersey have reportedly developed a test that can identify pancreatic cancer in its earliest stages by measuring levels of protein that are present in 90% of cancerous and precancerous lesions, according to HealthDay News. Study authors used their test on 19 healthy participants and 68 patients who recently had pancreatic-cancer surgery. The test accurately detected stage one cancer 62% of the time and stage two cancer 86% of the time. The technique was able to correctly diagnose patients with advanced forms of the disease in 91% of cases. Currently, only 7% of patients suffering from the disease are diagnosed before it spreads to other parts of the body. Each year, approximately 42,000 individuals are diagnosed with the disease, resulting in nearly 35,000 deaths. The low survival rate is due to the fact that pancreatic cancer is rarely detected in its early stages and spreads rapidly.


Rare parasitic disease spreads among HIV-infected gay men. Amebiasis, a rare parasitic disease traditionally transmitted by contaminated water, has been transmitted by sex between HIV-positive gay men, according to a researcher at the University of Antwerp and the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp. Amebiasis, an infection with the single-celled amoeba Entamoebia histolytica, exists in areas where the amoeba is endemic and where hygiene is substandard, leading to contact with contaminated water. The amoeba invades the intestinal lining and causes a bloody diarrhea, or when it enters the bloodstream it can cause liver abscesses. The researcher showed seropositive (HIV-infected) gay men in Taiwan are infected more often with the amoeba than the healthy population and also more often than seropositive heterosexuals. Using modern molecular techniques, the researcher showed that men from different regions are being infected by closely related amoebas.

Perinatal HIV infection highest among blacks. The rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission among infants is 23 times higher for blacks than whites, the CDC reported. Although rates of perinatal HIV infection have fallen by more than 90% since the 1990s, racial and ethnic disparities not only remain but also may be increasing, the agency said in the Feb. 5 issue of MMWR. The finding comes from an analysis of surveillance data from the 34 states that have had confidential name-based reporting since at least December 2003.During the study period, 69% of all children younger than 13 who were diagnosed with HIV were black, 16% were Hispanic, 11% were white, and 4% were of other or multiple races. Racial and ethnic disparities in HIV/AIDS incidence among children have been known since 1981 to 1986, when 78% of children with AIDS were either black or Hispanic. Similar disparities have been seen in rates of perinatal HIV infection, according to the CDC. The annual total of perinatal HIV infections has fallen about 90% since 1991, but 85% of reported infections during 2004 to 2007 were in children who were black or Hispanic.


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, and more. Learn more at

Oct. 9-12. The 2010 AABB Annual Meeting and CTTXPO in Baltimore will offer 120 education sessions, showcase the latest products and services from 200 exhibitors, and provide networking opportunities for attendees from the blood-banking, transfusion medicine, and cellular and related biological therapy communities worldwide. Registration details are available at