ASCLS eNewsBytes
Sep. 18, 2012

West Nile outbreak stresses lab testing limits, delays diagnosis
NBC News
A spike in West Nile virus infections in the U.S. this summer has strained the nation's laboratory testing capabilities, creating brief shortages of diagnostic test kits and forcing lab staffers in some states to work extra shifts or rely on temporary hires for help. The outbreak has surged to at least 2,636 cases and has caused 118 deaths, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Of those, 1,405 cases have been serious neuroinvasive disease infections.More

7 tips for better biobanking
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News
Biobanks have become a hot area in recent years as many hospitals and research institutes build up large collections of biological samples from healthcare and population cohorts. Such biorepositories are becoming essential in medical research and provide a powerful tool in the identification of biomarkers for disease and development of new analytical methods for diagnostics. More

Precautions for tick-borne disease extend 'beyond Lyme'
Bioscience Technology
This year's mild winter and early spring were a bonanza for tick populations in the eastern United States. Reports of tick-borne disease rose fast. While Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, new research results emphasize that it is not the greatest cause for concern in most Southeastern states.More

Genetic markers may predict drug dependence
Medscape Medical News
Although specific endophenotypes may be associated with an increased risk of developing cocaine or amphetamine dependence, some siblings may be more resilient to these genetic factors, new research suggests. Investigators assessed 50 people addicted to a stimulant, 50 nonaddicted biological siblings, and 50 unrelated healthy peers (control group). They found that both the addicted and nonaddicted sibling participants showed significant deficits in their executive functioning, slower response speeds and increased presence of anxious-impulsive personality traits compared with the control group.More

Mortality rate related to C. difficile 2.5 times higher than controls
The mortality rate was 2.5 times higher among patients with Clostridium difficile infection compared with control patients, according to data from the Netherlands. Although mortality rates are high during C. difficile outbreaks, there were no existing data about the mortality related to C. difficile in non-outbreak situations, study researchers said. More

Task force says no to routine screening for ovarian cancer
Medscape Medical News
The U.S. Preventive Task Force has recommended against routine preventive screening of asymptomatic women with no risk factors for ovarian cancer in a report published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The report echoes a recommendation made by the task force in 2004, which found that "the potential harms outweighed the potential benefits of screening."More

Researchers improve gene therapy technique for children with immune disorder
America Society of Hematology via The Sacramento Bee
By including chemotherapy as a conditioning regimen prior to treatment, researchers have developed a refined gene therapy approach that safely and effectively restores the immune system of children with a form of severe combined immunodeficiency, according to a study published online in Blood, the Journal of the American Society of Hematology. SCID is a group of rare and debilitating genetic disorders that affect the normal development of the immune system in newborns.More

Study: Mammography's benefits outweigh harms for older women
For women between the ages of 50 and 70, the benefits of getting a mammogram every two years outweigh the potential harms, a new European study indicates. For every 1,000 women aged 50 to 69 screened every two years, said study leader Stephen Duffy, a professor of cancer screening at Queen Mary, University of London. an estimated seven to nine lives were saved.More

Single gene mutation found to cause insulin sensitivity
Fox News
Oxford researchers have discovered the first single gene responsible for insulin sensitivity in humans. Since the opposite condition of insulin resistance is a significant marker of type 2 diabetes, the discovery could potentially lead to new pathways for diabetes drugs and future treatments. More

WHO: Ebola outbreak in Congo risks spreading to towns
Reuters via Chicago Tribune
An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo risks spreading to major towns if not brought under control soon after the death toll doubled within a week, the World Health Organization warned. The number of people killed by the contagious virus for which there is no known treatment has now risen to 31, including five health workers. Ebola causes massive bleeding and kills up to 90 percent of its victims.More

Scientists map genetic 'blueprint' of heart
Researchers have identified the genetic "blueprint" for how a heart becomes a heart – a sort of instruction manual for building a fully functioning heart from embryonic stem cells. The scientists reprogrammed embryonic stem cells from mice into beating heart cells. Then they removed and analyzed DNA from developing and mature heart cells to determine which aspects of heart formation they encoded, using large amounts of computing tools and gene-sequencing data to do so.More

NIH superbug claims 7th victim
The Washington Post
A deadly, drug-resistant superbug outbreak that began last summer at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center claimed its seventh victim, when a seriously ill boy from Minnesota succumbed to a bloodstream infection, officials said. The boy was the 19th patient at the research hospital to contract an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae that arrived in August 2011 with a New York woman who needed a lung transplant. But his case marked the first new infection of this superbug at NIH since January – a worrisome signal that the bug persists inside the huge brick-and-glass federal facility in Bethesda.More

University of Rochester researchers demonstrate emerging role of Big Data
Campus Times
A team of University of Rochester researchers has developed a new way to track the spread of infectious disease — by following Twitter messages, no less. "We track the spread of influenza-like disease in real-time," Adam Sadilek, team member and computer science postdoctoral associate, said. "We answer health questions about specific people, in real time, and at a population scale. This was impossible until now."More

No needles, no pain: Get ready for ultrasound vaccinations
Medical Daily
New research promises to take the pain and fear out of injections by developing a way to enhance the skin's permeability to drugs. Researchers say that this research could pave the way for injection-free vaccinations. More

Yosemite's hantavirus may be due to larger mouse population
Los Angeles Times
The population of mice that carry hantavirus may have swelled in California's Yosemite National Park, a possible lead in the ongoing investigation into an outbreak of infections that has killed three people since mid-June. Recent trapping related to the investigation indicates that the park's deer mouse population is larger this year, said Dr. Vicki Kramer, head of the California Department of Public Health's vector-borne disease section. Deer mice are the primary carriers of hantavirus in the U.S.More

Regenerative medicine helps rebuild wounded warriors
ABC News
Marine Sgt. Ron Strang was on foot patrol in Afghanistan's Helmand Province when an improvised explosive device tore through his left thigh, shredding his muscle and draining half his blood. Strang, 28, endured more than a dozen surgeries and painful skin grafts to close the gaping wound. Though his skin eventually healed, Strang was left with half the quadriceps he once had. But an experimental treatment has tricked his body into regenerating itself, and now Strang can walk – even run – without help. The pioneering procedure implanted pig tissue stripped of cells deep inside his thigh. More

Deaf gerbils 'hear again' after stem cell cure
Hearing partially improved when nerves in the ear, which pass sounds into the brain, were rebuilt in gerbils - a United Kingdom study in the journal Nature reports. Getting the same improvement in people would be a shift from being unable to hear traffic to hearing a conversation.More