News Trends Analysis

June 1, 2012

Healthcare community mourns death of California research associate. Medical Laboratory Observer joins the family, friends, and colleagues of Richard Din in mourning his death on April 28 of a meningococcal infection after an apparent work-related exposure to a rare strain of the disease. Din, 25, a meningitis research associate at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, was part of a team working to develop a vaccine for Neisseria meningitidis. Din was known by his colleagues to be a well-trained and talented researcher who was conscientious about taking appropriate precautions, and officials at the Center did not have any immediate explanation for how he could have become infected. There was no apparent evidence of spills or of malfunction of instrumentation that might have contributed to Din's exposure, or of failure by Din or anyone else to follow safety procedures. The tragedy is under investigation by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in consultation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Din's death is not the first connected with meningitis research; a 2005 study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology tallied eight deaths that were probably due to laboratory exposure to meningitis. Says Dr. William Schaffner, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, “There are very elaborate, very thoughtfully prepared safety protocols in place, but there is always a risk.”


Studies indicate American cancer patients live longer than their European counterparts. Food for thought as the debate over healthcare cost and delivery in the United States continues: Several articles published in the April issue of the journal Health Affairs link higher-priced cancer treatments in the United States to better patient survival rates. The United States spends more on cancer care than European countries, but studies suggest that investment also generates a greater “value” for U.S. patients, who typically live nearly two years longer than European cancer patients.

The researchers concluded that by standard metrics that value additional years of life in dollar terms, U.S. cancer patients paid more but achieved better results in terms of longevity. Even after considering higher costs for treatment, their calculations showed the extra longevity was worth an aggregate of $598 billion&emdash;an average of $61,000 for an individual cancer patient. The value of additional survival gains was highest for prostate cancer patients ($627 billion) and breast cancer patients ($173 billion).This analysis suggests that the higher-cost U.S. system of cancer care delivery may be “worth it” in terms of the longer survival that it delivered, say the authors, although further research will be required to determine what specific tools or treatments drive improved cancer survival in the United States.


Idaho Technology spotlights new respiratory panel at CVS. Idaho Technology, Inc. presented several poster sessions highlighting the company's diagnostic FilmArray Respiratory Panel (FilmArray RP), a multiplex pathogen detection system that simultaneously tests for 15 different pathogens, at the 28th Annual Clinical Virology Symposium held April 22 through 25 in Daytona Beach, Florida. FilmArray RP was FDA-cleared and launched nearly one year ago in the U.S. and recently received CE Mark for commercialization in Europe. At the symposium, researchers from several hospital-based clinical laboratories presented data highlighting the benefits of the panel. In these studies, evidence was presented that FilmArray RP reduces sample turnaround time and improves workflow significantly compared to commercial real-time PCR systems and lab-developed real-time PCR assays.

One study concluded that a single FilmArray RP sample required an average of only four minutes of hands-on time, with a turnaround time of 65 minutes. A poster presentation demonstrated the ability of Idaho Technology's development-stage FilmArray gastrointestinal panel to detect multiple viral pathogens in unprocessed stool samples. Detection of each virus was shown to be specific, and no cross-reactivity with other pathogens was observed. Rapid, accurate diagnosis of enteric viruses using FilmArray GI may improve outbreak control drastically and decrease mortality and morbidity associated with viral GI infections. The company expects to begin beta testing in hospital labs this summer. Based on those results, it will begin clinical studies in support of FDA 510(k) clearance.


The Joint Commission enterprise launches an HAI portal. With concerns growing about healthcare-acquired illnesses (HAI), the Joint Commission enterprise has launched an electronic portal that provides a wealth of HAI resources. The goal of the “HAI Portal” is to provide an integrated kiosk of HAI resources&emdash;some for free and some for purchase&emdash;in one organized area. In 2011, The Joint Commission enterprise identified a customer need to have all HAI-related resources easily available to customers, such as those on hand hygiene, central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI), multidrug-resistant organisms (MDRO), surgical site infections (SSI), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI), and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP). The Portal also includes other resources related to influenza, staff education, and vaccinations.

The HAI Portal is easy to use. Resources are organized under three headings: HAI Topics (MDRO, CLABSI, SSI and others); Infection Prevention and Control (resources related to environment of care, hand hygiene, and staff education); and HAI Information by Setting in the U.S. (ambulatory care, behavioral healthcare, critical access hospital, hospital, home care, laboratory services, and long term care). You can access the HAI Portal at