A Weekly Compilation of Clinical Laboratory and Related Information
from The Division Of Laboratory Programs, Standards And Services
March 5, 2015
- Dangerous Infections Now Spreading outside Hospitals
- At Public Meeting, FDA, Stakeholders Discuss Unique Challenges of Regulating NGS Tests
- FDA Announces Availability of Draft Guidance on Whole Slide Imaging Devices
- Internal Proficiency Testing: Setting the Bar for Failure
- ASCP Expands List of Commonly Used Tests Physicians and Patients Should Question
- Do Heart Surgery Patients Get Too Many Blood Tests?
- Link between HbA1c and Mortality in Diabetes not Clear-cut
- ‘Miracle’ Stem Cell Therapy Reverses Multiple Sclerosis
- Human Antibodies Target Marburg, Ebola Viruses; One Step Closer to Vaccine
- XDR Tuberculosis Spread by Transmission
- Many California Bird Species Host Lyme Disease Bacteria, Study Finds
- Report Identifies Most Common Sources of Food-borne Illnesses
- FDA Calls for Medical Device Oversight
- Most Health-related Websites Share Personal Info with Third-parties
- NIH Head: Technology Will Help Drive Precision Medicine Initiative
View Previous Issues - Healthcare News Archive
Dangerous Infections Now Spreading outside Hospitals
Life-threatening infections caused by bacteria called Clostridium difficile now sicken nearly half a million Americans a year, health officials said. The number of these infections — which can cause "deadly diarrhea" and damage to the colon — doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2011, about 29,000 patients with the bacteria, also known as C. difficile or C. diff, died within a month of becoming sick, according to a CDC study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. One out of three of these infections occurs in people 65 and older. People 65 and older also account for most deaths.
At Public Meeting, FDA, Stakeholders Discuss Unique Challenges of Regulating NGS Tests
Researchers and industry stakeholders last week advised the US Food and Drug Administration as to how the agency might regulate next-generation sequencing-based tests without hindering their ability to improve the technology and the diagnostics. "We felt this was a reasonable approach to take but there are going to be future challenges as we move to whole-genome [sequencing,]" David Litwack, a member of the personalized medicine staff at FDA's Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, said at the meeting. One of the ideas the FDA is considering is a certification process through which an external body can develop analytical validation standards that NGS manufacturers and labs performing such tests will have to meet. However, Barbara Zehnbauer of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pointed out that even if FDA uses an accreditation body and a certification process to make regulations less onerous, there still needs to be a way of gauging what adding a new gene or set of genes to a test means for the clinical use of the test.
FDA Announces Availability of Draft Guidance on Whole Slide Imaging Devices
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is announcing the availability of a draft guidance entitled “Technical Performance Assessment of Digital Pathology Whole Slide Imaging Devices.” This draft guidance provides industry and Agency staff with recommendations regarding the technical performance assessment data that should be provided for regulatory evaluation of a digital whole slide imaging (WSI) system. This draft guidance is not final nor is it in effect at this time. FDA regulates WSI systems manufacturers to ensure that the images produced for clinical intended uses are safe and effective for such purposes. Essential to the regulation of these systems is the understanding of the technical performance of the components in the imaging chain, from image acquisition to image display and their effect on pathologist’s diagnostic performance and workflow. Download here (available from Federal Register 2/25/2015)
Two Strains of H.I.V. Cut Vastly Different Paths
Thirty-four years ago, doctors in Los Angeles discovered that some of their patients were succumbing to a normally harmless fungus. It soon became clear that they belonged to a growing number of people whose immune systems were hobbled by a virus, eventually known as human immunodeficiency virus, or H.I.V. To date, an estimated 78 million people have become infected, 39 million of whom have died. As the true scale of the virus’s devastation began to emerge, a number of scientists set out to investigate its origins. Piece by piece, year after year, the scientists reconstructed its history. Their research slowly revealed that the virus did not make a single leap from animals, but several. On Monday, a team of researchers filled in the final gaps in the history. It’s now clear, they say, that the virus originated in humans on 13 separate occasions, evolving in humans from ancestral viruses that infected monkeys, chimpanzees and gorillas. “We’ve got an amazing amount of the story nailed down, more than any reasonable person could have expected in the 1980s,” said Michael Worobey, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, who was not involved in the new study.
Laboratory Testing / Diagnostics
Internal Proficiency Testing: Setting the Bar for Failure
The idea behind proficiency testing (PT) is quite clear: the determination of laboratory testing performance by means of inter-laboratory comparisons. We all know and love the external PT process: whether accomplished through the College of American Pathologists, a state program, or an international program, the results are valuable and provide the laboratory a reassuring check that all is well. On the other end of the PT spectrum is alternative performance assessment (APA), a term applied to address non-regulated analytes. This type of PT can be met with alternate external PT from a number of different organizations, split sample analysis with other laboratories, split samples with in-house methods, or a process determined by the laboratory director.
ASCP Expands List of Commonly Used Tests Physicians and Patients Should Question
Testosterone deficiency has received extensive coverage in the media in recent years, prompting many men to seek testing of their testosterone level. The testosterone test is included on an expanded list of ASCP recommendations for laboratory tests that are commonly ordered but not always appropriate in pathology and laboratory medicine, as part of the Choosing Wisely® campaign, an initiative of the ABIM Foundation. “At its core, Choosing Wisely® aims to encourage clinician and patient conversations across all disciplines of medicine,” says Lee H. Hilborne, MD, MPH, FASCP, DLM (ASCP) CM, Chair of ASCP’s Choosing Wisely Ad Hoc Committee, which developed the expanded recommendations.
Do Heart Surgery Patients Get Too Many Blood Tests?
The high number of blood tests done before and after heart surgery can sometimes lead to excessive blood loss, possibly causing anemia and the need for a blood transfusion, new research suggests. The study included almost 1,900 patients who had heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic between January 2012 and June 2012. From the time they first met their heart surgeons until they left the hospital, the patients collectively had more than 221,000 blood tests. That works out to 116 tests per patient, according to the study. The total median amount of blood gathered during an entire hospital stay was about 15 ounces (454 milliliters) per patient, the researchers found. Results of the study were published in the March issue of The Annals of Thoracic Surgery. "We were astonished by the amount of blood taken from our patients for laboratory testing. Total phlebotomy volumes approached 1 to 2 units of red blood cells, which is roughly equivalent to one to two cans of soda," study leader Dr. Colleen Koch of the Cleveland Clinic said in a journal news release. The highest amounts of blood loss occurred among patients undergoing the most complex heart surgeries. The greater the number of lab tests and the longer patients stayed in the hospital, the more likely they were to require transfusions.
While quality control (QC) has been used for decades, there are several reasons it's still a relevant and timely topic of discussion today. For example, there's been significant improvement in instrument precision over the decades since QC was proposed in the 1970s and '80s. As well, computers are more sophisticated now and able to do more tasks related to quality. There's also sufficient evidence to use the average of normal (AoN) or the patient moving average and benefits of using delta checks (DC). Finally, one can reevaluate the number of patient samples analyzed in each run/batch as a way to reduce reruns and risk.
FDA Approves Corgenix’ s Ebola Test for Emergency use
Diagnostics company Corgenix Medical Corp said U.S. health regulators had approved its rapid Ebola test for emergency use, in response to the world's worst outbreak of the virus that killed more than 10,000 so far. The company's ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test, which involves putting a drop of blood on a paper strip and waiting for at least 15 minutes for a reaction, was cleared by the World Health Organization last week.
Skin Test May Aid Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Diagnosis
A new skin test may eventually be used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), and other neurodegenerative diseases in living patients, new research shows. Investigators at the Universidad Autonoma de San Luis Potosi and Hospital Central, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, found that skin biopsy specimens from patients with AD and those with PD had significantly higher levels of tau protein (p-Tau) compared with those from patients without these diseases and those from patients with nondegenerative dementias. In addition, patients with PD had higher levels of α-synuclein protein (α-Syn). "There is now solid hope for a complementary test for the diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases in living subjects, which can be done in a standard pathology lab in hospitals and clinical laboratories around the world," lead researcher Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva, MD, told Medscape Medical News. Commenting on the findings for Medscape Medical News, Daniel O. Claassen, MD, assistant professor of neurology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, said the study adds to the growing body of data showing that protein aggregates linked to neurodegeneration are often found outside the central nervous system.
MicroRNA Potential Biomarker for Esophagitis
In patients with eosinophilic esophagitis, microRNAs in the saliva might one day be used to diagnose and manage the disease, according to a pilot study. "The technology we used to measure miRNAs is readily available and already inexpensive," said senior investigator Faoud Ishmael, MD, from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in Hershey. "It's possible that a commercial assay could be available within the next 5 years or so," he told Medscape Medical News.
MiR-371 Promising New Marker in Testicular Germ Cell Tumors
Serum levels of microRNA-371a-3p (miR-371) appear to be a useful biomarker in testicular germ cell tumors (GCTs). According to data presented at the 2015 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium, miR-371 is a sensitive and specific biomarker that could outperform the classic markers currently used. The researchers found that after treatment, all elevated levels of miR-371 returned to the normal range. And there was a correlation with tumor bulk; mean levels were significantly higher in patients with metastatic disease than in those with early-stage disease.
Researchers Create Nanoparticle that Targets Cancer to Optimize MRI Scanning; New Technology Has Potential to Reduce Number of Tissue Biopsies and Pathology Testing
Researchers at Imperial College London report that their new nanoparticles make it possible for cancer to be visible in magnetic resonance imaging. Even as pathologists are working to develop more sensitive and accurate diagnostic tests for cancer, similar efforts are underway in radiology and imaging. In fact, one research team has developed a self-assembling nanoparticle that can adhere to cancer cells, thus making them visible in MRI scans and possibly eliminate the need for invasive tissue biopsies. The new nanoparticle improves MRI scanning efficacy by “specifically seeking out receptors that are found in cancerous cells,” noted an Imperial news release. Were this development to become a reality, it has the potential to alter anatomic pathology’s role in diagnosing cancer.
Molecular Typing for Red Blood Cell Antigens
Blood group antigens are polymorphic residues of protein or carbohydrate on the red cell surface. They can provoke an antibody response in individuals who lack them, and some antibodies can lead to hemolytic transfusion reaction or hemolytic disease of the fetus/newborn (HDFN). Researchers have identified the molecular basis of many red cell blood group antigens, and an actively maintained database currently lists over 1,600 alleles of 44 genes. This mini-review describes the major applications of the explosion of knowledge in blood group genetics to the practice of blood banking and transfusion medicine.
Link between HbA1c and Mortality in Diabetes not Clear-cut
A drop in HbA1c was associated with lower mortality among people with type 2 diabetes who had initial HbA1c values over 8%, but with a higher death rate for those who started out at 8% or lower, a 6-year study finds. Results from the population-based, prospective observational study were published online January 30 in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care by Mette V Skriver, PhD, from Aarhus University, Denmark, and colleagues. Greater variability in HbA1c over the median 6-year follow-up period was also linked to higher mortality among those with HbA1c levels of 8% or lower, but HbA1c variability had no effect on mortality in those with index HbA1c values greater than 8%. "Our hypothesis going in was that high variation in HbA1c would be associated with higher mortality….We were surprised by the fact that the variation did not seem to matter for people with HbA1c values above 8%," Dr Skriver told Medscape Medical News.
‘Miracle’ Stem Cell Therapy Reverses Multiple Sclerosis
The treatment, is the first to reverse the symptoms of MS, which has no cure, and affects around 100,000 people in Britain. A pioneering new stem cell treatment is allowing multiple sclerosis sufferers to walk, run and even dance again, in results branded ‘miraculous’ by doctors. Patients who have been wheelchair-bound for 10 years have regained the use of their legs in the groundbreaking therapy, while others who were blind can now see again. The two dozen patients who are taking part in the trials at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield and Kings College Hospital, London, have effectively had their immune systems ‘rebooted’. Although it is unclear what causes MS, some doctors believe that it is the immune system itself which attacks the brain and spinal cord, leading to inflammation and pain, disability and in severe cases, death.
Human Antibodies Target Marburg, Ebola Viruses; One Step Closer to Vaccine
Researchers at Vanderbilt University, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and The Scripps Research Institute for the first time have shown how human antibodies can neutralize the Marburg virus, a close cousin to Ebola. Their findings, published in two papers in the journal Cell, should speed development of the first effective treatment and vaccine against these often lethal viruses, said James Crowe Jr., M.D., whose team at Vanderbilt isolated and characterized the antibodies. The ability of some of the antibodies to neutralize, or kill, Marburg virus was confirmed in the level 4 biosafety facility at UTMB’s Galveston National Laboratory. No live virus is used in the research at Vanderbilt. Ebola and Marburg are highly lethal in part because it takes the body’s immune system four to six weeks to mount an antibody response. Injecting antibodies prior to or in the first few days following exposure could prevent full-blown illness, he said.
Study Reveals How C. difficile Disrupts the Gut
When C. diff enters the digestive tract of a patient freshly treated with antibiotics, it very rapidly establishes itself and wreaks havoc in the gut. Infection with C. diff can result in mild to severe symptoms, such as diarrhea, fever and stomach pains. It can also lead to life-threatening conditions such as the bowel being unable to expel gas and stool due to inflammation and swelling. While we know most cases of this major public health threat arise following antibiotic treatment, we know little about the stages and biological processes that allow C. diff to rapidly colonize the disturbed ecosystem of the gut. Now, a new study from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor - published in the journal Infection and Immunity - describes how it took only 24 hours for the pathogen to germinate and establish itself along the whole of the digestive tract of mice newly treated with antibiotics. The researchers hope their findings will spur better ways of preventing and treating C. diff infections.
Method for Mapping Neuron Clusters Developed
A team of scientists has developed a method for identifying clusters of neurons that work in concert to guide the behavior. Their findings, which appear in the journal Neuron, address a long-standing mystery about the organization of the prefrontal cortex (PFC)--one of the most recently evolved parts of the primate brain that underlies complex cognitive functions. "We have established a method to find functional groupings of neurons based on co-fluctuation of their responses," says Roozbeh Kiani, an assistant professor in NYU's Center for Neural Science and one of the study's authors. "In doing so, we show that PFC neurons are organized into spatially contiguous maps, much like their counterparts in sensory cortices. The widely accepted notion that orderly spatial maps are restricted to sensory cortices, therefore, needs revision."
Protein Linked to Development of Asthma
Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin (CHW) Research Institute have linked a specific protein to the development of post-viral infection asthma, which is the first step in generating a novel type of asthma therapy designed to prevent development of post-viral asthma in young children. The findings are published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The researchers previously found evidence linking a human chemokine (protein) called CCL28 to the development of chronic asthma. This study is the first, however, that examines structural analysis and its impact on disease development.
Study on Chronic Fatigue May Help with Diagnoses
The immune systems of people with chronic fatigue syndrome differ from those of healthy people, and patients with recent diagnoses can be distinguished from those who have had the condition for longer, researchers reported. The findings do not have immediate clinical applications for patients, experts said. But the biomarkers discovered by the scientists may eventually form the basis of the first diagnostic test for the illness. “A biomarker has been the goal for much of the research for the last 15 years, so it’s really excellent that they have found something they consider significant,” said Dr. Birgitta Evengard, a professor of clinical microbiology at Umea University in Sweden and an expert on the illness. “There are biological markers that can be detected in the blood soon after the onset of the disease, and this has very important diagnostic implications,” said Dr. Mady Hornig, an associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University and lead author of the new study. The findings still need to be replicated in other labs with other groups of patients, cautioned Dr. Evengard, who was not involved in the research.
XDR Tuberculosis Spread by Transmission
Cases of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB) appear to be spread person-to-person rather than caused through acquired resistance due to inadequate antibiotic use, researchers said. Using genetic testing, N. Sarita Shah, MD, associate chief for science in the International Research and Programs Branch, Division of TB Elimination at the CDC in Atlanta, determined that 79% of the cases tested in the outbreak epicenter in South Africa were transmitted from other people carrying strains that are resistant to most drugs used to treat tuberculosis. In her presentation at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Shah said that transmission appears to occur most frequently among individuals co-infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). "What our study showed is that XDR TB remains prevalent and widespread in KwaZulu province in South Africa, and in this high HIV-prevalent setting the majority of XDR TB cases are occurring due to transmission of drug-resistant strains. Poor treatment of XDR TB occurs in less than 25% of cases. This really shows we need to focus our attention on prevention of transmission though TB infection control," she said at a press conference.
Note that this study was published as an abstract and presented at a conference. These data and conclusions should be considered to be preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Many California Bird Species Host Lyme Disease Bacteria, Study Finds
Ticks carrying the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease are infesting Northern California’s birds and may be hitching rides on them into suburban settings, according to a new UC Berkeley study. The tick-borne spirochete scientists know as Borrelia burgdorferi is found in a wide variety of mammals in California including wood rats, gray squirrels and deer. Although Lyme disease cases are relatively rare in California, DNA sequencing showed B. burgdorferi’s presence in 23 of 53 species of birds tested in Mendocino County. The disease-causing bacteria were detected in blood samples taken from species including the American robin, lark sparrow, dark-eyed junco, lesser goldfinch and oak titmouse. The golden-crowned sparrow was infected more frequently than any of the other species, according to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Report Identifies Most Common Sources of Food-borne Illnesses
An estimated 9 million people are sickened and 1,000 killed by food-borne illnesses in the U.S. each year, but until now officials were unable to pinpoint which foods were most likely to blame. In a report released, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service detailed the sources of the most common food-borne illnesses with the aim of improving food safety and policy.
Land Use Changes may Spark Re-emergence of Plague
The conversion of natural lands to croplands for the production of maize in East Africa may have set the stage for a significant increase of human infections with plague, according to a study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. “We found that increases in maize production in natural areas appears to create a perfect storm for plague transmission,” study researcher Hillary S. Young, PhD, a community ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said in a press release. “The presence of the crop as a food source caused a surge in the population of a rodent species known to carry plague. Local farmers often then store this harvested corn next to or inside their homes — potentially baiting in the hungry field rats and increasing opportunities for human infection. These kind of conditions are what breed outbreaks.”
Study: Reusable Plastic Produce Containers Harbor Bacteria Even after Being Cleaned, Sanitized
Reusable plastic containers used to transport large amounts of fruits and vegetables to grocery stores can continue to harbor potentially harmful bacteria directly on their surfaces, even after undergoing industry-standard cleaning and sanitizing, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Arkansas and WBA Analytical Laboratories. The researchers allowed Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and E. coli O157:H7 bacteria to grow on the RPC surface and then subjected sample surfaces to cleaning and sanitizing practices typical in the industry. In all cases, the materials still harbored biofilms that protected the bacteria and would theoretically allow bacteria to colonize the next shipment of fruits and vegetables to be put in the containers. In a future study, the researchers hope to measure the exact percentage of bacteria that remains after the cleaning process, but they don’t have that information based on this study, Ricke said. For now, they were just interested in seeing if the bacteria could survive the cleaning at all.
Higher-Risk Prostate Cancers in US May Have Increased
The rate of higher-risk prostate cancer as defined by PSA value at diagnosis appears to have risen slightly but significantly in the United States during 2011 and 2012, new research indicates. The 3% increase in each of those two years coincides with changes that were made a few years earlier (In 2009 and 2011) to prostate cancer screening guidelines from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF ), which discouraged screening, said study lead author Timothy E. Schultheiss, PhD, a radiation physicist at City of Hope in Duarte, California. However, a prominent urologist said that the two phenomena could not be definitively linked. "It's far too early to say this is cause and effect," said Charles Ryan, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, who moderated the presscast.
Bavarian Nordic Vaccine Helps Prolong Life in Prostate Cancer Trial
An experimental therapeutic vaccine from Danish drugmaker Bavarian Nordic helped significantly extend survival in patients with advanced prostate cancer, according to results of a small early-stage trial conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute. The vaccine is designed to trigger an immune system response against prostate cancer cells. The study involved 30 patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. Patients were treated with the company's Prostvac vaccine, in addition to escalating doses of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co's immunotherapy drug ipilimumab (Yervoy), an approved treatment for advanced melanoma.
FDA Calls for Medical Device Oversight
A new report commissioned by the FDA and authored by the Brookings Institution is calling for the creation of a national surveillance system for medical devices. The report comes on the heels of patient deaths tied to the use of endoscopes that hospital officials said in a Feb. 19 statement exposed patients to the superbug CRE at UCLA Medical Center. The $250 million plan put forth in the Brookings report would create a national surveillance system that would unfold in two stages over seven years. The report calls for creating a collaborative system capable of supporting the development, regulation, and use of innovative medical devices.
Most Health-related Websites Share Personal Info with Third Parties
Third parties receive personal health information from more than 90 percent of visits to health-related websites, according to research to be published in the March 2015 issue of Communication of the ACM. For the study, Timothy Libert, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, examined the top 50 search results for close to 2,000 common diseases, which resulted in slightly more than 80,000 unique pages. Researchers found third-party HTTP requests in 91 percent of those pages. What's more, in 70 percent of those requests, information on specific conditions, treatments and diseases was present.
NIH Head: Technology Will Help Drive Precision Medicine Initiative
The path forward for the Precision Medicine Initiative that President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union speech in some respects has yet to be invented, but the time is right for this bold step, writes Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, in a perspective article for The New England Journal of Medicine. The initiative is expected to involve of biologists, physicians, technology developers, data scientists, patient groups and others, and has two main components: a near-term focus on cancers and a longer-term aim to generate knowledge about a range of diseases. Both efforts will tap into the growing trends of social media, mobile devices and Americans' growing desire to be active partners in medical research.
Mobile Tech Can Spur Adherence to Chronic Disease Management
Mobile tools, such as text messaging, can help boost adherence in global chronic disease management, which can lead to improved health and more cost-effective care, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. The study's authors--who evaluated 107 separate studies on the role of mHealth on chronic disease management for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic lung disease--called mobile a potential high-impact tool, but added that more evaluation is needed, specifically regarding how such technology can help overcome barrier in chronic disease management.
Few Docs on Track with ICD-10 Implementation, Survey Indicates
Physician practices remain optimistic about their ability to meet the ICD-10 deadline and are slightly more prepared to meet that goal than last year, according to a new survey from cloud-based healthcare billing and payment solutions vendor Navicure. This survey, however, found that only 21 percent feel they are on track with preparation efforts. In last year's poll, published prior to the latest ICD-10 delay, 74 percent said they still hadn't started implementing their transition plan for the coding switch. A majority of the 350 respondents (57 percent) were practice administrators or billing managers from practices with one to 10 providers.
Med Student Interest in Informatics Greater than Knowledge of Training Opportunities
Even as healthcare becomes more about using technology to gain knowledge from reams of data, medical students' interest in pursuing clinical informatics (CI) training outpaces their knowledge about opportunities to do so, according to a new study at the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. The American Medical Informatics Association made supporting educational opportunities for the future CI work force one of its public policy priorities for 2014. This study, funded from an American Medical Association Accelerating Change in Medical Education grant, looked at interest in CI training and knowledge of opportunities among med students at Brown University, the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Health Care Cost Institute Price Transparency Site Goes Live
The Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) has launched a website listing cost information for more than 70 common health conditions and services based on claims data from four major insurers, the nonprofit organization announced. The site, Guroo.com, gets its pricing information from claims data from Aetna, Assurant Health, Humana and UnitedHealth, which together insure more than 40 million Americans. The site is free and open to anyone, regardless of who insures them.
WHO Calls for Action over Mers Virus
Too little is being done to control the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which has infected 50 people in Saudi Arabia so far this month, the World Health Organization has warned. The rising number of cases in health-care facilities indicates current infection-control measures are not being implemented, it says. There have been at least 1,026 recorded infections and 376 deaths since 2012. Experts in the UK say the risk to the general population remains very low. Cases have been confirmed in the UK, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia, Egypt, and the US - usually after travel to Saudi Arabia.
Guinea Says Ebola Patients Sent Home after Botched Blood Tests
Health officials botched more than 20 Ebola blood tests in January and February which led to the release of at least four positive patients, two of whom later died, Guinea's anti-Ebola coordinator and other health officials told Reuters. Five health officials and experts familiar with the incidents said the mistakes occurred at two different treatment centres and resulted in as many as 52 botched tests, exposing many others to the virus and revealing weaknesses in Guinea's response to the crisis. Dr. Sakoba Keita, Guinea's anti-Ebola coordinator, confirmed the mistake had occurred but gave lower figures. He said in an emailed response to questions that 23 patients were affected, of whom four tested positive when they were retested and two died.
Liberia-U.S. Clinical Research Partnership Opens Trial to Test Ebola Treatments
In partnership with the Liberian government, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) launched a clinical trial to obtain safety and efficacy data on the investigational drug ZMapp as a treatment for Ebola virus disease. The study, which will be conducted in Liberia and the United States, is a randomized controlled trial enrolling adults and children with known Ebola virus infection.
Airport Screenings Miss Roughly Half of Sick Travelers: Study
Airport screenings for infectious diseases often miss 50 percent or more of sick travelers, mostly because people do not tell the truth about their exposure to illnesses, a new study suggests. "Honest reporting can not only improve on-site detection, but is essential to enable authorities to follow up with travelers who may have been exposed but have not yet developed symptoms," wrote researcher and graduate student Katelyn Gostic, from the Lloyd-Smith Lab at University of California, Los Angeles. Using a mathematical model, researchers from UCLA and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analyzed airport screenings for six viruses: SARS coronavirus, Ebola virus, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Marburg virus, influenza H1N1, and influenza H7N9. They found one of the biggest barriers to successful health screenings at airports is a lack of honesty among passengers. This is a particular issue among travelers trying to avoid delays, they noted. The study's authors suggested that policymakers consider devoting more resources to arrival screening, which could reduce the number of missed cases.
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