News Trends Analysis

Aug. 1, 2011

Nearly 350 million diabetics worldwide. An international research team working in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that the number of adults worldwide with diabetes has more than doubled in three decades, jumping to an estimated 347 million, according to a study published in The Lancet. Researchers found that diabetes rates have risen or stayed the same in almost all parts of the world over the past three decades. The study notes that approximately 138 million people in China and 36 million people in the United States have diabetes. Among high-income countries, diabetes rates were highest in the U.S., Greenland, Malta, New Zealand, and Spain. The Netherlands, Austria, and France reported the lowest rates.

Fatal dose of insulin linked to test discrepancy. A patient died after being given a high dose of insulin at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Salisbury Township, PA, says the Pennsylvania Department of Health. According to an April 8 report, insulin was administered in connection with a discrepancy between a blood-serum test and a blood-glucose test strip. The report indicates a nurse failed to tell doctors that the results from the bedside blood-glucose testing strip differed significantly from lab tests of the patient's blood, and the patient remained on an insulin drip for 10 hours before being found in an “unresponsive coma” as a result of “prolonged hypoglycemia,” The Morning Call reports. Health officials say a failure to communicate played a role in the death. The hospital later discovered the glucose testing strips were faulty, the report states.

Scientists discover drug-resistant gonorrhea strain. An international research team has discovered a strain of gonorrhea that is resistant to all currently available antibiotics. Researchers say this new strain could transform a common and once easily treatable infection into a global threat to public health. The team successfully identified a previously unknown variant of the bacterium that causes gonorrhea, Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Analyzing this new strain, dubbed H041, allowed researchers to identify the genetic mutations responsible for the bacterium's extreme resistance to all cephalosporin-class antibiotics — the last remaining drugs still effective in treating gonorrhea.

Ontario hospitals battle deadly C diff outbreak. Niagara Health System, an Ontario-based hospital network, is battling a deadly outbreak of Clostridium difficile in three of its seven hospitals. The rapidly spreading bacterium had claimed the lives of 21 people as of July 14. There have been 100 people confirmed with infections, according to News. Hospitals in Guelph, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Welland, Orangeville, and Mississauga continue to fight cases. Three hospitals in Toronto, Hamilton, and Napanee have called off outbreaks.

2012 London Olympics to be most tested Games. The 2012 London Olympics will be the most tested Games yet, a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) expert says. The head of the Drug Control Centre at King's College London, which is Britain's only WADA-accredited laboratory, says there will be more than 5,000 tests at the Games — or roughly one for every two athletes — and most results are expected to be analyzed within a day. An athlete's biological passport, which builds a biological profile and detects suspicious changes in the blood, will also be a weapon in the anti-doping fight at the 2012 Games.

Lab errors led to false accusations of athlete doping. A Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling says an Egyptian international soccer player and an American marathon runner were falsely suspected of doping because of a Malaysian laboratory's mistakes. The court also dismissed the lab's appeal against losing its WADA accreditation. The report says three Middle East-based players were served suspensions because the WADA-accredited lab in Penang wrongly reported positive tests for a steroid. The American runner avoided a ban because the sport's world governing body and United States anti-doping officials did not trust the test results. The lab failed to consider the possible effects of the runner's use of birth control pills, the ruling stated.

Infectious diseases

New type of MRSA may have animal origin. A new type of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) that is not detected by traditional genetic screening methods has been discovered in patients in Irish hospitals, according to research published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Scientists at the University of Dublin, the Irish National MRSA Reference Laboratory, the University of Dresden, and Alere Technologies identified the new MRSA strain using high-throughput DNA microarray screening. Complete genome sequencing revealed that this strain is distinctly different from previously described MRSA; the new strain is not detected as MRSA by routine conventional and real-time DNA-based polymerase chain reaction assays. The MRSA strain was found to belong to the genetic lineage clonal complex 130, which has previously been associated with methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus, or MSSA, from cows and other animals but not humans, suggesting that the new MRSA originated in animals.


Nearly 20,000 Americans discover they are HIV-positive. A three-year, $111-million program to expand access to HIV testing in 25 of the areas of the U.S. most affected by HIV has provided nearly 2.8 million HIV tests and diagnosed 18,432 individuals who were previously unaware of their HIV infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hospital emergency rooms were particularly important venues for the CDC HIV testing study, accounting for 30% of all tests and 32% of all previously undiagnosed infections. Community-based organizations, which accounted for most of the HIV tests provided outside of healthcare facilities, contributed 11% of new HIV diagnoses. The results of the program were published in the June 24 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Study shows reasons for HIV test refusal. HIV testing studies in the emergency department (ED) have found rates of testing refusal of 40% to 67%, according to a study published in AIDS and Behavior on May 20. Researchers examined factors associated with refusal to undergo routine rapid HIV testing in an ED in Boston. Of the 1,959 subjects offered HIV testing, 29% refused. Participants more likely to refuse testing included women, those with annual household incomes of $50,000 or greater, those reporting no HIV risk behaviors, those previously tested, those who did not perceive a need for testing, and participants entering the ER during the morning hours. Low self-perceived need for testing was the strongest independent correlate for test refusal.

Predictive model for progression of CKD. Clinicians may have a new tool they can use to better predict which patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) will progress to kidney failure, reports Renal and Urology News. American and Canadian researchers have come up with a model using routine laboratory tests that appear to accurately predict progression to kidney failure in patients with CKD stages three through five. Researchers from Tufts Medical Center-Boston utilized a model that incorporates age, gender, estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), albuminuria, serum calcium, serum phosphate, serum bicarbonate, and serum albumin, a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association states. This model was more accurate than a simpler model that included age, gender, eGFR, and albuminuria.

New studies

Low vitamin D levels tied to obesity in kids. New research shows vitamin D deficiency is common in American children and is linked with obesity and different types of fat distribution in white and black youngsters. Researchers checked vitamin D levels in 237 healthy obese and non-obese white and black children, aged eight to 18 — most were found to be vitamin D deficient. Low levels of vitamin D were associated with higher body mass index and fat levels, and lower levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Among those with vitamin D deficiency, white children were more likely to have higher levels of fat between their visceral adipose tissue, while black children were more likely to have higher levels of fat just under subcutaneous adipose tissue, the investigators found. The study is published in the May issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

31% of people age 50 and older have never been screened for colon cancer. Results from a nationwide research poll released by the Colon Cancer Alliance and Quest Diagnostics show that 31% of men and women age 50 years and over have never been screened for colon cancer by standard screening methods such as a colonoscopy, fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), and fecal immunochemical tests (FIT). The poll also shows that among men and women age 50 and older who have not been screened for colon cancer, 28% say their healthcare provider did not recommend they be screened. Three out of four people say they would be more likely to get screened more frequently for colon cancer if a blood test were available.

Blood test detects early emphysema. Researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center say they are working on a blood test that detects the early development of emphysema — well before symptoms occur. The blood test measures particles that are shed by tiny blood capillaries that surround alveoli in lungs. These particles are debris shed by injury to the air sacs — damage that results in the “Swiss cheese” appearance of the lungs. Researchers reasoned that as capillaries surrounding the air sacs are being injured, debris would be carried out by the blood supply. The researchers found a 95% positive correlation between elevated endothelial microparticles in the blood and an abnormal lung-function test result, meaning that it detected nearly all verified cases of early emphysema in participants.

$5 million refunded by NY to labs. More than $5 million is being refunded by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to 35 laboratories resulting from a lawsuit brought by the American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB) alleging that the NYSDOH overcharged the 35 laboratories for New York State inspection and reference fees between 1998 and 2006. Testimony at the trial showed that labs were being charged for things unrelated to regulating clinical laboratories. The court ruling directed the NYSDOH to recalculate the inspection and reference fees for the eight-year period covered by the lawsuit. The NYSDOH subsequently determined that 78% of the fees should be refunded, an amount equal to $5,041,377 for the 35 laboratories.

Certified medical lab professionals earn more than non-certified. Laboratory medical scientists can raise their income by 14% if they become certified, according to the ASCP 2010 Wage Survey. A non-certified staff-level histotechnician (HT), for example, earns on average $19.60 per hour, but the average wage for a certified HT is $22.98, a 14.7% differential. Staff-level medical technologists/medical laboratory scientists/clinical laboratory scientists make about 10% more on average than non-certified laboratory professionals in comparable positions. Certified staff phlebotomists earn an average of 10% more than their non-certified counterparts. Read the full report at

Hormone test helps predict success in IVF. A study by researchers at Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital shows that as the IVF cycle is beginning, a blood test for levels antimullerian hormone (AMH) can help predict the number of eggs that will be harvested. In the study, published online in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers say women with low AMH levels in the first test (less than one nanogram per milliliter) on average yielded only about six eggs, while women who had more than three times as much AMH provided about 20 eggs on average. AMH similarly predicted whether a pregnancy became established. Only about a quarter of women with less than one nanogram of AMH were pregnant five to six weeks after the IVF procedure. Among women with more than three nanograms, three in five were pregnant at that stage.

Pregnant women are not screened adequately for gestational diabetes. Nearly one-third of pregnant women are not being screened by a simple laboratory test for gestational diabetes mellitus (gestational diabetes), according to a study of more than 900,000 American women published online in Obstetrics and Gynecology. The study, conducted by scientists at Quest Diagnostics, suggests that a large number of women are not being screened according to medical guidelines and may unknowingly put themselves and their babies at risk for complications from gestational diabetes. The investigators found that in the study population, 4.9% of women between the ages of 18 and 40 — or about 41,000 women nationally — had gestational diabetes.

Many teen girls in U.K. are iodine deficient. In the United Kingdom, nearly seven in 10 young teenage girls have an iodine deficiency, according to a study in The Lancet. The study measured iodine levels in 14- to 15-year-old girls in Belfast, Cardiff, Dundee, Exeter, Aberdeen, Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and London. The researchers measured urinary iodine concentrations in June-July 2009 and November-December 2009. The researchers found that 51% of the girls had mild iodine deficiency; 16% of the girls had moderate iodine deficiency; 1% had severe iodine deficiency. The WHO defines iodine deficiency as mild when urinary iodine excretion is 50 ug/L to 99 ug/L, moderate when urinary iodine excretion is 20 ug/L to 49 ug/L, and severe as less than 20 ug/L to 49 ug/L. Researchers say the median urinary iodine excretion of the test group was 80 ug/L.