A Weekly Compilation of Clinical Laboratory and Related Information
From The Division Of Laboratory Systems
August 20, 2015
- The Joint Commission to Introduce New Individualized Quality Control Plan for Clinical Labs
- COLA Resources, Inc., Answers Labs’ Questions about Individualized Quality Control Plan
- Senators Want Unused Anthrax Vaccines Going to First Responders
- Caution Urged in Using Multigene Panels to Assess Breast Cancer Risk
- Blood Chemical Test May Predict Risk of Heart Disease Death
- New Microfluidic Blood-Draw Device Could Replace Needle Sticks and Venipunctures at Medical Laboratories
- Scientists Discover New Liver-Regenerating Cells
- Traitors in Our Midst: Bacteria Use Toxins to Turn Our Own Bodies against Us
- Revealed -- Helicobacter pylori's Secret Weapon
- Joint Commission Leader in JAMA: Time to Address Racial Bias in Health Care
- Million Hearts Launches Annual Blood Pressure Control Challenge
- New Hope for Vaccine against Germ That Causes 'Mono'
- 4 Big Data Privacy and Security Recommendations
- ICD-10 Not as Challenging as Physician Practices May Think
- Employers Planning to Offer Telehealth on the Rise
View Previous Issues - Healthcare News Archive
The Joint Commission to Introduce New Individualized Quality Control Plan for Clinical Labs
Effective Jan. 1, 2016, The Joint Commission is to implement a new voluntary quality control (QC) option - the Individualized Quality Control Plan (IQCP), a result of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) January 2016 implementation of IQCP in the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA '88) Interpretive Guidelines. IQCP is to replace Equivalent Quality Control (EQC) and will allow clinical laboratories to customize QC policies and procedures based on a risk assessment. It will be applicable to all specialties and subspecialties, except pathology. CMS provides a step-by-step guide to developing an IQCP, a useful workbook and additional background information about IQCP.
COLA Resources, Inc., Answers Labs’ Questions about Individualized Quality Control Plan
As laboratories continue their transition from EQC (Equivalent Quality Control) to IQCP (Individualized Quality Control Plan) in anticipation of The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) December 31, 2015, deadline, COLA Resources, Inc., (CRI) is sharing answers to some of lab professionals’ most frequently asked questions about the new quality control plan.
- Is IQCP required?
- Can I keep using EQC?
- Will IQCP save us money?
- Why would I want to do an IQCP?
- Do I need an IQCP for my waived tests?
Visit CRI’s website to learn more about the IQCP Implementation Tools the organization offers.
Senators Want Unused Anthrax Vaccines Going to First Responders
A bipartisan group of senators wants to give anthrax vaccines to first responders, suggesting it could help prepare against potential future attacks. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) have introduced legislation that would establish a two-year pilot program to give vaccines that are nearing their expiration from the country's strategic national stockpile to emergency responders "for the purpose of domestic preparedness for and collective response to terrorism."
Scientists Find the Brain’s Missing ‘Pipes’
“Throw out the textbooks” and “missing link” are words rarely heard any more in science, but that’s what researchers around the world are saying about the recent discovery of microscopic lymphatic vessels connecting the brain to the immune system. That physical link was long thought absent, confounding scientists who study neurological disorders with an immune component. The vessels were found in mice, by accident, by University of Virginia researchers who published their results in Nature. If confirmed in humans, experts say, the discovery could have profound implications for a range of conditions including chronic fatigue syndrome, autism, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Lymphatic vessels, which piggyback on blood vessels, distribute immune cells to tissues to fight infection and carry fluid away from tissues to dispose of cellular waste. This complex drainage system has been found in nearly every part of the human body but not, until now, in the brain.
Caution Urged in Using Multigene Panels to Assess Breast Cancer Risk
An international consortium of researchers writing in a special report published in the New England Journal of Medicine have urged caution in using multigene panels in assessing risk for breast cancer (NEJM 2015;372:2243–57). The authors said the clinical utility for many such tests has not been established and that without clinical validation there is potential for “substantial misuse of the technology.” The 17 co-authors observed that advances in sequencing technology have made it easy to use multigene panels when assessing a woman’s risk of breast cancer. After the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 invalidated Myriad Genetics’ patent claims on the DNA sequence for BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes—both strongly associated with breast cancer risk—many other companies have developed test panels. These panels test for more than 100 genes, only 21 of which have been specifically associated with breast cancer.
Blood Chemical Test May Predict Risk of Heart Disease Death
Higher-than-normal levels of a certain blood chemical may place some patients at significantly greater risk of dying from heart disease, new research indicates. Scientists found that nearly one out of three people with diabetes and stable angina -- a condition causing chest pain -- who also had elevated levels of troponin in their blood died of a heart-related problem within five years. Troponin, a protein found in heart muscle, is released into the bloodstream when heart damage occurs. Normally detected in patients suspected of having a heart attack, troponin at much lower levels is also identifiable in a high-sensitivity version of a test commonly used in Europe but not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The study is published Aug. 13 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"I think we anticipated that there would be a strong relationship between the troponin test and future death from heart attack, heart failure and stroke," said study author Dr. Brendan Everett, director of the general cardiology inpatient service at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "But we're surprised by the strength of the relationship," added Everett. "The most compelling thing is that we have a marker that's a really strong predictor of outcome and . . . gives us the opportunity to develop new therapies for these patients."
New Microfluidic Blood-Draw Device Could Replace Needle Sticks and Venipunctures at Medical Laboratories
In research labs across the nation, there are credible efforts to develop ways to collect medical laboratory test specimens that require no needles at all. On such effort may soon enter the market. It is an innovative, needleless blood-collection device called HemoLink developed by a research team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Users simply place a device with the diameter of a golf ball against their arms or abdomens for two minutes. During that time, the device draws blood from capillaries into a small container. Patients would then mail the tube of collected blood to a medical laboratory for analysis. This non-threatening device is ideal for children. However, patients who require recurrent blood tests to monitor health conditions would also benefit, as it would save them frequent trips to clinical laboratories for blood draws using traditional needle-stick methods.
Broader Gene Tests for Breast, Ovarian Cancer Might Benefit Some: Study
Some women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer might benefit from a broader genetic test that includes more than 20 genes that have been found to increase cancer risk, a new study suggests. Genetic tests have tended to focus solely on BRCA1 and BRCA2, the two genetic mutations that have been proven to dramatically increase a woman's risk for breast or ovarian cancer, the researchers said. But women who don't carry BRCA1 or BRCA2 could still have another genetic mutation that is the source of a history of cancer in their families, explained study senior author Dr. Leif Ellisen, program director of the Center for Breast Cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston. Ellisen's research concluded that a broad genetic test could help doctors better advise and treat about half of the women who have a genetic predisposition to cancer that's not due to either BRCA1 or BRCA2.
The study was published online Aug. 13 in the journal JAMA Oncology.
Focus On: STDs – NAT Testing for Trichomonas, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea
While culture has been the "gold standard" method throughout the years, the most recent and, subsequently, most sensitive and specific option is Nucleic Acid Amplification testing (NAT). In a recent interview with ADVANCE, Kim Workowski, MD, lead author of the 2015 STD treatment guidelines and professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Emory University, discussed the role of NAT in modern clinical laboratories for the diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated the Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) treatment guidelines, of which Workowski was the lead author. The new guidelines offer full details on the screening options available for both men and women. While infections in women are best diagnosed through NAT, the test is not FDA-cleared for use in men. However, with analyte specific reagents, NATs can be used in men with urine or urethral samples if validated per CLIA regulations. However, laboratories should still maintain Gonorrhea culture capacity and antimicrobial susceptibility testing to evaluate suspected cases of Gonorrhea treatment failure and to monitor antimicrobial resistance patterns.
Many Pathologists Participate in Medicare’s Quality Reporting and e-Prescribing Programs, but 40% of Providers Opt for Penalties over Compliance
Many pathologists are aware of Medicare’s Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and Electronic-Prescribing Incentive (e-prescribing) Program. But what is less known is that up to 40% of eligible doctors nationwide are opting to not participate and thus get paid less money from the Medicare program. That high rate of non-participation is not true for one group of practitioners, however. Pathologists had the highest participation rate (78.7%) among specialties in PQRS and recorded the fourth-highest participation rate (80.3%) in the e-prescribing program.
Scientists Discover New Liver-Regenerating Cells
Among the organs of the human body, the liver has the highest capacity to regenerate. How the liver manages to repair itself, however, has largely been subject to debate. Now, a new study has revealed a previously unidentified group of cells that can regenerate liver tissue without forming tumors. These newly discovered cells are better at regenerating tissue than ordinary liver cells, also known as hepatocytes. Previously, researchers believed that a group of adult stem cells known as oval cells were responsible for the liver's renowned regenerative properties, but it has since been proven that these stem cells develop into bile duct cells. Instead, the researchers at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine have revealed that "hybrid hepatocytes" are behind the liver's regeneration. Their findings are published in Cell.
Traitors in Our Midst: Bacteria Use Toxins to Turn Our Own Bodies against Us
Toxins turn healthy proteins into poison to interrupt immune response
Researchers who have revealed a highly efficient way that bacteria use toxins to interrupt the immune response say that until now, the trickery of these toxins has been underappreciated in science. Bacteria harm the body by releasing toxins – proteins that are exceptionally effective poisons. Always targeting essential molecules, toxins typically go after molecules that are either scarce or whose role is to send important signals. In both cases, only a small number of toxins is required to cause damage. In contrast, some toxins appear to deviate from these strategies by targeting highly abundant proteins. The research is published in the July 31, 2015, issue of the journal Science.
Revealed -- Helicobacter pylori's Secret Weapon
Discovered in 1982, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a disease-causing bacterium that survives in our stomachs despite the harsh acidic conditions. Through unique evolutionary adaptations, H. pylori is able to evade the antiseptic effect of our stomach acid by hiding within the thick acid-resistant layer of mucus that coats the stomach wall. Once within the mucus layer, the bacterium latches onto sugars naturally found on the stomach wall using its adhesion proteins. This attachment is so effective that the bacterium can resist attempts by the body to 'flush' it away, allowing the pathogen to colonise with impunity. But the game could be up for H. pylori. Researchers in the School of Pharmacy, at The University of Nottingham and AstraZeneca R&D have identified the molecular mechanism that the bacterium's best-known adhesion protein uses to attach to stomach sugars. The research is published, August 14 2015, in the prestigious scientific journal Science Advances. Using extremely powerful x-rays, the scientists were able to study the interactions between the H. pylori adhesion protein BabA and Lewisb sugars of the gastric mucosa at the atomic level. They found that, right at its tip, BabA possesses a specific groove that enables it to securely attach to Lewisb using a network of hydrogen bonds (the same kind of interactions that keep water molecules together).
Blood Vessel “Doorway” Lets Breast Cancer Cells Spread through Blood Stream
Using real-time, high-resolution imaging, scientists have identified how a “doorway” in the blood vessel wall allows cancer cells to spread from breast tumors to other parts of the body. The findings lend support to emerging tests that better predict whether breast cancer will spread, which could spare women from invasive and unnecessary treatments, and could lead to new anti-cancer therapies. The research, conducted by investigators at the NCI-designated Albert Einstein Cancer Center (AECC) and Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care, utilized a mouse model of human breast cancer and mice implanted with human breast tissue. The study was published in the online edition of Cancer Discovery.
Injectable Implant Monitors Chemical Changes of Tumors
Physicians may have a variety of tools in their arsenal to fight cancer, but quickly determining whether one or another method is actually working for a given patient is a major challenge today. Biopsies and imaging scans are what’s used today to monitor tumors, but one is invasive, painful, and comes with potential side effects, while scanning can be limited in precision and only offers infrequent glances at the state of the tumor. A new implantable device developed at MIT may offer real-time tumor monitoring, offering physicians quick information on whether a therapy is having the desired effect. The device can be injected using a needle and contains responsive nuclear magnetic resonance contrast agents that act as the chemical sensors, while electric inductance is used to beam the readings to a device outside the body.
Autoantibodies Predict Future RA in Healthy Relatives of Patients
The presence of autoantibodies in healthy relatives of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) predicts a higher risk of developing the disease, Mexican researchers have found. In a 5-year follow-up cohort study, a maximal positive predictive value (PPV) of 63.6% was reached when both rheumatoid factor (RF)-IgM and second-generation anti-citrullinated protein antibody 2 (anti-CCP2) were positive. Detecting RA at an early stage permits early initiation of therapy, referred to as a "window of opportunity" for treatment, to prevent joint damage and retain function, they contended in Arthritis and Rheumatology. The findings also point to the possibility of primary prevention trials, said the researchers, led by Cesar Ramos-Remus, MD, MSc, at Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, Guadalajara, Mexico.
FAU Neuroscientist Develops New, Rapid Dementia Screening Tool That Rivals ‘Gold Standard’ Clinical Evaluations
Determining whether or not an individual has dementia and to what degree is a long and laborious process that can take an experienced professional such as a clinician about four to five hours to administer, interpret and score the test results. A leading neuroscientist at Florida Atlantic University has developed a way for a layperson to do this in three to five minutes with results that are comparable to the “gold standard” dementia tests used by clinicians today. The “Quick Dementia Rating System” (QDRS), which uses an evidence-based methodology, validly and reliably differentiates individuals with and without dementia. When dementia is present, it accurately stages the condition to determine if it is very mild, mild, moderate or severe. QDRS has applications for use in clinical practice, to pre-qualify patients in clinical trials, prevention studies, community surveys and biomarker research.
James E. Galvin, M.D., M.P.H., is one of the most prominent neuroscientists in the country and a professor of clinical biomedical science in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine and a professor in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University, and the QDRS is his brainchild. He recently published an article on his findings in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Hepatitis C Associated with Higher Heart Disease
It is well-known that patients with hepatitis C face a higher risk of liver complications; however, a new study discovered that the heart could also be in trouble. Many people with hepatitis C are also infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but the researchers found that the second virus was not a factor in the increased heart problems risk. According to the results published in The Journal of Infectious Disease, the patients with hepatitis C, regardless of HIV status, had 30% more calcified plaque in the arteries which is the main contributor to heart disease and stroke. Those patients had significantly more coronary artery calcium (CAC), any plaque, and noncalcified plaque. Hepatitis C and HIV were both linked to 42% more noncalcified fatty buildup. “In addition, those who had higher levels of circulating hepatitis C virus in their blood were 50% more likely to have clogged arteries, compared with men without hepatitis C,” the statement said.
Joint Commission Leader in JAMA: Time to Address Racial Bias in Health Care
In issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a Viewpoint co-authored by The Joint Commission’s medical director, Ronald Wyatt, MD, MHA, calls for immediate action to address racial bias throughout the U.S. health care system. The Viewpoint, “Racial Bias in Health Care and Health,” was written by Dr. Wyatt and David R. Williams, PhD, MPH, the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and professor of African and African American studies and of sociology at Harvard University. They write that bias by clinicians—even when they don’t recognize it’s there—has been linked with biased treatment recommendations, poorer quality patient-physician communications and lower ratings from patients on the quality of the medical encounter. In turn, black people in the United States have earlier onset of some illnesses, greater severity and more rapid progression of diseases, higher levels of comorbidity and impairment throughout life, and increased mortality rates. The authors note that similar patterns are evident for other racial groups, such as U.S.-born Latinos, Pacific Islanders and low-socioeconomic Asians.
Million Hearts Launches Annual Blood Pressure Control Challenge
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched an annual challenge designed to identify and honor clinicians and health care teams that have helped their patients control high blood pressure and prevent heart attacks and strokes. The Million Hearts Hypertension Control Challenge recognizes exemplary public and private practices and providers that achieve sustained hypertension control rates of 70 percent or above. The challenge was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in support of Million Hearts, an HHS initiative aimed at preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. "Many heart attacks and strokes – and needless early deaths – can be prevented if we get better control of high blood pressure,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “We applaud the many medical practices which have made hypertension control a daily priority with all of their patients. We look forward to recognizing their achievements and learning from top performing practices.”
New Hope for Vaccine against Germ That Causes 'Mono'
Mononucleosis: It's a fatiguing disease that lays low thousands of Americans – usually young people – each year. But new, early research offers hope for a vaccine against the virus that's thought to trigger most cases of the illness. The Epstein-Barr virus is also believed to help drive a number of types of cancer. In mice and monkeys, the nanoparticle-based vaccine triggered the animals' immune system to release powerful antibodies against Epstein-Barr, according to a study published Aug. 13 in the journal Cell. Nanoparticles are microscopic particles being investigated as potential delivery vehicles for vaccines. The new findings suggest that this could be a promising approach for developing an Epstein-Barr virus vaccine for people, according to researchers led by virologist Dr. Jeffrey Cohen at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Clinicians See Increase in Vaccine Acceptance, Medscape Survey Says
New survey data from Medscape suggest fewer parents may be refusing to vaccinate their children, especially in western states, which have had some of the highest refusal rates in America. Forty-two percent of clinicians said they believed more parents are accepting vaccines, and 38% said parents are more accepting of measles vaccination in particular, according to the Medscape Vaccine Acceptance Report, an online survey of 1577 pediatricians, family physicians, public health physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants that was conducted last month. Even so, a third of those surveyed said they had not seen any changes in parents' willingness to accept vaccinations. "Overall, this is encouraging," Amanda Cohn, MD, deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Immunization Services Division, told Medscape Medical News.
Lyme Disease in U.S. Is Under-Reported, CDC Says
About 329,000 cases of Lyme disease occur every year, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in their analysis of a nationwide health insurance claims database for 2005 through 2010. That's much higher than the 30,000 confirmed and probable Lyme cases reported to the CDC in 2010. But it tracks fairly well with a previous CDC estimate of about 300,000 Lyme disease cases annually, said lead author Dr. Christina Nelson, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC's division of vector-borne disease.
Legionella and Waterborne Outbreaks Are Increasing, Warns CDC
A new report from the CDC provides an update on infections associated with drinking water in the U.S. from 2011-2012. During these two years, there were 32 outbreaks, causing at least 431 infections, with a quarter of them (102) requiring hospitalization, and 14 deaths. Legionella caused 21 (66%) of the outbreaks, 111 cases, most of the hospitalizations and all of the deaths. Norovirus only was found to cause two outbreaks, but they involved 138 cases. Other bacterial causes of outbreaks included Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (56), Shigella sonnei and Pantoea agglomerans, a bacteria associated with hospital-acquired bloodstream infections.
Standing Provides Real Advantages over Sitting
Time spent standing, rather than sitting, was associated with lower fasting plasma glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol in a new study. Researchers attached a monitor to nearly 700 participants over 7 days and found that each additional 2 hours per day spent sitting was significantly associated with higher body mass index (risk ratio 1.03, 95% CI 1.01-1.05; P<0.001), waist circumference (Beta=2.12, 95% CI 0.83-3.41, or around 2 centimeters; P<0.001), fasting plasma glucose (about 1%), total/high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ratio (5%), triglycerides (12%), 2-hour plasma glucose (4%), and with lower HDL cholesterol (0.07 mmol/L). The study was led by Genevieve Healy, PhD, at the University of Queensland, in Australia, and appeared on Thursday in the European Heart Journal.
4 Big Data Privacy and Security Recommendations
The Health IT Policy Committee approved draft recommendations pertaining to big data and security issues during its Privacy and Security Workgroup (PSWG) last week. "The application of big data analytics in healthcare brings opportunities to improve the health of both individuals and their communities," the report said. Upsides that PSWG pointed to include: safer treatments, tailored interventions for patients and populations, and the ability to inhibit diseases from spreading more effectively. Big data also creates new privacy and security challenges. "Rapid growth in the volume of health-related information increases the risk of privacy violations, particularly when data sets are combined," PSWG noted. To that end, the workgroup offered four recommendations to manage security concerns relating to big data in healthcare:
1. Address potentially harmful actions, including discrimination concerns
2. Address uneven policy environment
3. Protect health information by improving trust in de-identification methodologies and reducing the risk of re-identification
4. Support secure use of data for learning
ICD-10 Not as Challenging as Physician Practices May Think
Despite recent reports that show physician practices falling behind in ICD-10 implementation, that may not be the full story, says Jim Daley, director of IT at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and co-chair the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange. Many may have responded negatively to a recent survey by WEDI—in which less than 50 percent of physician practices said they would be ready for the new code set—because they don't understand what's needed to make the transition, Daley tells PhysicianPractice.com. For example, he says practices won't need to know all of the 68,000 codes in ICD-10; many of them they won't use, such as ones for hospital inpatient procedures. "Depending on the office, they may use a few dozen codes. Some may go beyond that, but it's not going to be 68, 000," he says.
Employers Planning to Offer Telehealth on the Rise
Telehealth is growing at a rapid rate, and a new survey found that about 74 percent of U.S. employers plan to offer it to employees in 2016. That number was at less than 50 percent for 2015, according to an annual survey by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), a nonprofit association of 425 U.S. employers. The NBGH survey found that of the companies that currently offer telehealth services, only 12 percent of employees are taking advantage of the program, according to a Reuter’s article.
FDA: More Open Data Is Coming by Month's End
The U.S. Federal Drug Administration plans to release information on its new openFDA platform as part of its program to make more information publicly available about food, drugs, and devices. With the goal being to make its information more accessible and useful to developers, the data will be released through a new application program interface (API) that developers and researchers can easily integrate for the public's benefit. The datasets, in addition to device adverse events reports currently available in openFDA, will have device-oriented harmonization. New datasets will include Product Classification, listing medical device types with their associated classifications, product codes, FDA premarket review organizations, and other regulatory information; Registration and Device Listing of all medical device manufacturers registered with FDA and medical devices they've listed.
Doctors Like EHRs Even Less Than They Did Five Years Ago
Whereas it's relatively safe to generalize that most technologies improve with each new iteration and user feedback yields changes that customers ultimately appreciate, one has to wonder if today's crop of electronic health records software are among the exceptions to that pattern of progress. Yes, the top-tier EHR vendors are for the most part improving certain aspects of their products, notably usability, workflow, UI, load and response times as well as other features designed to improve both the user experience and productivity. But do the clinicians, physicians, nurses and specialists actually using the software like EHRs any more than they did five years ago? No, they do not, at least according to the results of a study published by the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians' AmericanEHR division.
Diabetes Cases Soar by 60% in Past Decade
The number of people living with diabetes has soared by nearly 60% in the past decade, Diabetes UK warns. The charity said more than 3.3 million people have some form of the condition, up from 2.1 million in 2005. The NHS said it was time to tackle poor lifestyle, which is a major factor behind the rise. Diabetes UK called for the NHS to improve care for patients and for greater efforts to prevent diabetes. Roughly 90% of cases are type 2 diabetes, which is the form closely linked to diet and obesity. People with type 1 generally develop it in childhood and are unable to produce the hormone insulin to control their blood sugar levels.
Sierra Leone Records Zero New Ebola Infections
For the first time since the Ebola outbreak was declared in Sierra Leone, the country has recorded zero new infections. There were no new Ebola cases reported last week according to the WHO. At the height of the outbreak Sierra Leone was reporting more than 500 new cases a week. Last week, for the first time since May last year, there were zero new cases. But authorities are warning against complacency. OB Sisay, Director of the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC), said: "This does not mean Sierra Leone is suddenly Ebola free. "As long as we have one Ebola case we still have an epidemic. People should continue to take the public health measures... around hand-washing, temperature checks, enhanced screening."
High Security Lab for Japan
In response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and concerns that it might spread, Japan has decided to upgrade one of its infectious disease labs to handle such BSL-4 pathogens, Nature News reports. Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases built the lab, located less than 20 miles outside Tokyo, more than 30 years ago to be a BSL-4 lab, but it has been operating as a BSL-3 lab due to safety concerns, it adds. But worries last year that the Ebola outbreak could reach Japan spurred the decision to revamp it as a working BSL-4 lab.
Gazan Medico Team 3D-Prints World-Leading Stethoscope for 30c
Tarek Loubani, an emergency physician working in the Gaza strip, has 3D-printed a 30 cent stethoscope that beats the world's best $200 equivalent as part of a project to bottom-out the cost of medical devices. Loubani together with a team of medical and technology specialists designed the stethoscope and tested it against global standard benchmarks, finding it out performed the gold-standard Littmann Cardiology 3.
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