News Trends Analysis

April 1, 2011

Plague kills lab worker.

On Sept.18, 2009, the Chicago Department of Public Health was notified by a local hospital of a suspected case of fatal laboratory-acquired infection with Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague. The patient, a researcher in a university laboratory died from plague in on Sept. 13 — the first case of plague from a laboratory-acquired infection since 1959 and the first known death from a weakened form of the germ. The lab worker was working with a weakened strain of Y pestis, one that has not been known to cause harm to humans. The 60-year-old had last worked in the lab on Sept. 4. According to the recently released government report, the man sought medical help with symptoms of influenza on Sept. 10. Three days later, he arrived at a Chicago hospital with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Despite treatment, he died 13 hours after being admitted to the hospital. The complete report appears in the Feb. 25 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Human plague cases found in Oregon.

Two cases of human plague, the first in Oregon since 1995 and the only U.S. cases in 2010, were reported by the Oregon Health Authority in September 2010, according to an article in the Feb. 25 issue of MMWR. The patients, ages 17 and 42, lived in the same household, had symptoms at the same time, and may have been exposed to plague by infected fleas from a dog. An isolate from one patient was incorrectly identified by three laboratories using three different commercial automated systems. A fourth laboratory identified Y pestis using direct fluorescent antibody to F1 antigen, polymerase chain reaction, and bacteriophage lysis. The organism was identified retrospectively in the other patient through passive hemagglutination-inhibition. Both patients recovered with antibiotic therapy.

Researchers find more than 4,000 blood components.

Researchers have identified more than 4,000 chemical components of human blood that can be used to detect and treat various illnesses, according to the article “The Human Serum Metabolome” in the Feb. 16, 2011, issue of PLoS One. The information collected has been gathered in a freely available electronic database. The Serum Metabolome database (SMDB) contains detailed information about small molecule metabolites found in human serum. Currently, the SMDB contains information on 4,229 detectable metabolites (both confirmed and probable) and 9,225 concentration ranges or values associated with different conditions and disorders. Tables containing the complete set of confirmed and highly probable human serum compounds, their concentrations, related literature references, and links to their known disease associations are available at


New studies

Fatty liver increases risk for type 2 diabetes.

A new study shows that the presence of fat in the liver may be one of the strongest predictors of whether or not a person will eventually develop type 2 diabetes. Stanford University researchers found that regardless of insulin-test results, patients with fatty livers were five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in a five-year period. The study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology of more than 11,000 patients also found those with fatty liver had an increased risk of high blood glucose and bad cholesterol.

Low vitamin D levels linked to allergies in kids.

A new study shows that low vitamin D levels are associated with increased likelihood that children will develop allergies, according to a paper published in the Feb. 17 online edition of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University looked at the serum vitamin D levels in blood collected from children and adults. One blood test assessed sensitivity to 17 different allergens by measuring levels of Immunoglobulin E (IgE). No association between vitamin D levels and allergies was observed in adults. But for children and adolescents, low vitamin D levels correlated with sensitivity to 11 of the 17 allergens tested, including environmental allergens (e.g., ragweed, oak, dog, cockroach) and food allergens (e.g., peanuts).

Worth Noting

Submit abstracts to AABB.

AABB's call for abstracts in the area of transfusion medicine and cellular therapies is open for presentations to be considered for the 2011 Annual Meeting and CTTXPO in San Diego, Oct. 22-25. AABB members and non-members are invited to submit an abstract, free of charge. Accepted abstracts will be available to AABB Annual Meeting attendees. Selected abstracts will be published in TRANSFUSION's September supplement. For more information, visit Abstracts Online.
Abstracts — which must be submitted online — are due by 11:59 a.m. May 4, 2011.