News/ Trends/ Analysis

July 1, 2010


News/ Trends/ Analysis

CDC reminds labs of their role in VRSA containment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently confirmed the 11th case of vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA) infection since 2002 in the United States. This serves as a reminder about the important role of clinical laboratories in the diagnosis of VRSA cases to ensure prompt recognition, isolation, and management by infection-control personnel. This is an important reminder for all laboratories to revisit their step-by-step problem-solving procedure or algorithm for detecting VRSA. A sample algorithm is available at and highlights the recommended testing methodologies for detecting VRSA and actions based on testing results. The CDC also is asking clinical laboratories to ensure that all vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and VRSA isolates are saved when patients are identified with suspected or confirmed VRSA to be shared with public-health partners, including the CDC, upon confirmation of VRSA.

Olympic officials retesting samples from 2006 games. Olympic officials, acting on a tip from the World Anti-Doping Agency, are retesting some doping samples from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin to check for use of blood-boosting continuous erythropoietin receptor activator (CERA). The International Olympic Committee (IOC) stores samples for eight years so they can be analyzed retroactively once new testing methods become available. Last year, five athletes were caught when the IOC retested samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics for CERA.

Men's skin-cancer death rate doubled in 30 years. The rate of men dying from malignant melanoma has doubled in the last 30 years, according to the latest Cancer Research U.K. figures. In the late 1970s, fewer than 400 (1.5 per 100,000) men died from melanoma but now more than 1,100 (3.1 per 100,000) men are dying from the disease. Male malignant melanoma incidence rates are now more than five times higher than they were 30 years ago — rising from 2.7 per 100,000 to 14.6 per 100,000. More women are diagnosed with malignant melanoma, but more men are dying from it; and in comparison, death rates for women have risen more slowly from 1.5 per 100,000 to 2.2 per 100,000 since the late 1970s.

Infectious diseases

Babies born with syphilis increase in the U.S. Syphilis is making a comeback in the United States after nearly being eliminated 10 years ago. The CDC reported last month that after a 14-year decline, the number of babies born with syphilis rose from eight to 10 cases per 100,000 live births from 2005 to 2008, mostly among black women in the South. The country's overall syphilis rate rose 17% in 2008 from the year before. Untreated syphilis during pregnancy, especially early syphilis, can lead to stillbirth, neonatal death, or infant disorders such as deafness, neurologic impairment, and bone deformities. Congenital syphilis can be prevented by early detection of maternal infection and treatment at least 30 days before delivery.

MRSA more likely to lurk in certain patients. Certain populations are more likely to carry MRSA, a new study shows. In the United States, about 1% of people carry MRSA in their noses. But a study in the June issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology found that MRSA was present in the noses of 20% of long-term elder-care patients, 16% of HIV-infected patients, and 14% and 15% of inpatient and outpatient kidney dialysis patients. USA100 — a healthcare-associated MRSA strain — was the most common MRSA strain detected in patients, but the more virulent community-associated strain USA300 was more commonly found in HIV-infected patients, researchers found.

Hypervirulent C diff appears in Australia. A virulent strain of Clostridium difficile (C diff) has been detected in Australia for the first time. A particularly highly virulent strain of this bug named the “Quebec strain” has previously affected thousands of people in Britain, North America, and Europe over the last 10 years. The Quebec strain got its name from an epidemic there in 2003 that caused 7,000 people to fall ill and killed nearly 1,300. The hypervirulent C diff bacterium has been detected in three patients at Melbourne's Epworth Hospital. According to the hospital, the suspicion of the novel strain of infection first came to notice in February 2010, but two patients have recovered and the third is still being treated for an unrelated illness. It is not known whether these three cases are linked because the prevalence of this strain in the wider Australian community is unknown due to lack of testing.


Q fever bacterium common in U.S. An environmental study determined that Coxiella burnetii, the causative agent of Q fever — a bacterial infection that can affect the lungs, liver, heart, and other parts of the body — is fairly common in the United States, suggesting that exposure to the bacterium may be more frequent than what is suggested by the number of reported cases — fewer than 200 annually. Researchers collected more than 1,600 environmental samples from six states and found C burnetii DNA in 6% to 44% of them. Overall, 24% of the samples tested positive. The organism is highly infectious, can survive in a variety of conditions, and is present in domestic and wild animal populations. The primary mode of transmission to humans is inhalation of aerosols or dust contaminated by infected animals, most commonly cattle, sheep, or goats. On May 12, the CDC issued a health alert for people who have traveled to the Netherlands or Iraq. Since 2003, more than 200 cases of acute Q fever have been reported among U.S. military personnel deployed to Iraq, and more than 3,700 cases have been reported in the Netherlands since 2007. Learn more at


Oct. 9-12. The 2010 AABB Annual Meeting and CTTXPO at the Baltimore Convention Center 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. Visit

Oct. 27-31. ASCP Annual Meeting at the San Francisco Marriot Marquis will include more than a hundred informational and educational sessions, as well as diverse discussions and networking opportunities to address issues that impact the future of pathology. Learn more at


Sept. 9, 1:00 p.m. ET. “Mastering Pediatric Phlebotomy.” This presentation discusses equipment and techniques to obtain high-quality specimens from pediatric patients, including age-specific considerations. Learn more at

Sept. 30, 1:00 p.m. ET. “Potassium Results Your Physicians Can Trust.” This presentation discusses the ways potassium results can be altered during collection or processing leading physicians to question results. Visit


Aug. 3, 2:00 p.m. ET. “Performance Management.” Review how to manage a former peer, and learn the difference between disciplinary and corrective actions and how to use them for optimal success. Register at

Sept. 22, 2:00 p.m. ET. “Continuing Education on a Limited Budget.” Learn about tools that can be used for education and training programs, including the use of Web-based applications and how they can be adapted to blood-bank education. Register at

Oct. 13, 2:00 p.m. “Personnel Matters: What Supervisors Should Know.” Supervisors need a basic understanding of significant employment laws such as Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and, for federal contractors, the Affirmative Action obligations under Executive Order 11246. This program will familiarize supervisors with the basic information about each law and suggest when it is appropriate to consult with one's human resources department. Register at