On April 8, United States Federal District Court Judge, Thomas J. Whelan granted a preliminary injunction on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, prohibiting the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from announcing bid winners in the Medicare Competitive Bidding Demonstration for Clinical Laboratory Services. The preliminary injunction also enjoined CMS from otherwise implementing and carrying out the demonstration project in the San Diego metropolitan area, and further disclosing any information included in the bid applications. The decision was timely in that CMS was supposed to announce bid winners for the San Diego demonstration site on April 11. Because a preliminary injunction only delays the implementation of the demonstration until further Court order, it is critical that Congress act now to provide a permanent solution. ASM encourages you to contact your Members of Congress and urge them to co-sponsor and vote in favor of S. 2099, the Preserving Access to Laboratory Services Act of 2007 and H.R. 3453, the Community Clinical Laboratory Fairness in Competition Act of 2007.
ASM-CDC-APHL Meeting on Enteric Disease Testing Issues
On April 3-4, Vickie Baselski, chair of the Committee on Professional Affairs, and Bob Jerris, member of the Professional Affairs Committee represented ASM at a meeting to discuss the role of clinical diagnostic and public health laboratories in enteric disease surveillance and response, in Atlanta, GA. ASM was asked to cosponsor this year’s meeting with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL). The ASM has two major action items from the 2008 meeting: the Society is participating in a workgroup helping to write the interpretation section of a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Guideline on the issue, and the ASM is also responsible for gathering current coding, billing and compliance information on enteric diseases.
ASM Responds to Medically Unlikely Edits (MUE) Proposal
The ASM continues to comment on Medically Unlikely Edit (MUE) proposals regarding correct coding for Medicare laboratory testing based on appropriate utilization. The PSAB Committees on Professional Affairs and Laboratory Practices reviewed the MUE Phase VII proposal, and on April 7, the ASM submitted comments which included several edits for tests performed to detect infectious diseases by any method including molecular methods. The Phase VII edits are slated for a July 1 implementation date.
ASM Invited to Appoint Delegate to the USP
The ASM received a letter from the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), inviting the Society to appoint a delegate to the USP Convention, for a term that expires in 2010. The USP is a nonprofit, science based public health organization that maintains the US National Formulary and sets standards for all prescription and over-the-counter medicines, dietary supplements, and other healthcare products manufactured and sold in the United States. Among its many responsibilities, the USP sets and maintains procedures for testing products for sterility, antimicrobial preservative effectiveness, and a number of other sentinel microbiology procedures. PSAB chair, Ruth Berkelman recommended to CPC the nomination of Alice Weissfeld, Ph.D., former chair and current member of the Committee on Professional Affairs, to serve as ASM’s delegate to the USP. The CPC approved Dr. Weissfeld’s nomination in early April.
The ASM Sentinel Clinical Laboratory Guideline on Burkholderia mallei and B. pseudomallei was recently revised and posted on ASM’s website. Peter Gilligan, Ph.D., and Mary York, Ph.D. are the authors of this guideline which can be downloaded from ASM’s Sentinel Level Clinical Microbiology Laboratory Guideline Webpage.
ASM Posts LOCS Advisory on Measles Outbreak
On April 4, the ASM posted Laboratory Outreach Communications (LOCS) Advisory regarding the measles outbreaks in the United States. The LOCS Advisory was sent to ASM from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The purpose of LOCS is to create a volunteer communications infrastructure for the exchange of laboratory related information between the CDC and others in the laboratory community.
Minority Microbiology Mentor Newsletter Available
The April issue of the Minority Microbiology Mentor Newsletter has been published by the Committee on Microbiological Issues Impacting Minorities (CMIIM).
The ASM submitted FY 2009 funding recommendations to Congress on the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Science Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. A compilation of the ASM recommendations to Congress as well as a budget analysis for the federal agencies that support R&D have been developed.
Higher Rates of MRSA Among Drug Users Than Six Years Ago
A new comparative study suggests that rates of MRSA infection in injection drug users in Vancouver have significantly increased over the last six years highlighting the need for interventional methods in high-risks groups. The researchers from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver General Hospital, and Vancouver Coastal Health report their findings in the February 2008 issue of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. (G.N. Al-Rawahi, A.G. Schreader, S.D. Porter, D.L. Roscoe, R. Gustafson, E.A. Bryce. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus nasal carriage among injection drug users: six years later. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 46. 2: 477-479.)
Copper May Inhibit the Transmission of HIV Through Breast Milk and Blood
Researchers from the U.S. and abroad have developed an inexpensive copper-based filter that may prevent HIV from being passed through breast milk and blood. They report their findings in the February 2008 issue of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. (G. Borkow, H.H. Lara, C.Y. Covington, A. Nyamathi, J. Gabbay. 2008. Deactivation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 in medium by copper oxide-containing filters. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 52. 2: 518-525.)
Gastric Acid May Help Protect Against Foodborne Diseases
A new study suggests that low levels of gastric acid in the stomach can increase one’s likelihood of getting a foodborne infection. The researchers from Australia report their findings in the February 2008 issue of the journal Infection and Immunity. (S.M. Tennant, E.L. Hartland, T. Phumoonna, D. Lyras, J.I. Rood, R.M. Robins-Browne, I.R. van Driel. 2008. Influence of gastric acid on susceptibility to infection with ingested bacterial pathogens. Infection and Immunity, 76. 2: 639-645.)
The quarterly newsletter of the American Academy of Microbiology, News and Views, was recently posted on ASM’s website. The newsletter features interviews with Academy Fellows and committee members, updates on the critical issue colloquia series, notes about Fellows who have been distinguished with awards and other honors, and other news relevant to the lastest activities of the Academy.
New Academy Report: “Uncharted Microbial World”
The American Academy of Microbiology's newest report, “Uncharted Microbial World: Microbes and Their Activities in the Environment” focuses on the mystery of the microbial world that surrounds humans daily. To download the report, go to
Pneumococcal Vaccines: The Impact of Conjugate Vaccines
The development of protein conjugate vaccines against pneumococcal disease is arguably the greatest public health achievement of the new millennium. This book describes the development of the vaccines, their remarkable impact on respiratory and other pneumococcal infections, and the vaccines’ wider impact on public health. (Editors: George R. Siber, Wyeth Vaccines Research (retired), Pearl River, New York; Keith P. Klugman, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, and the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa).
The Mycobacterial Cell Envelope
Mycobacteria are responsible for many high-profile diseases in both humans and animals including leprosy, Buruli ulcer, Johne’s disease, and most notably, tuberculosis. The Mycobacterial Cell Envelope explains the unique characteristics that cause this large group of bacteria to function differently. The envelope, a complex arrangement of lipids, proteins and carbohydrates, is the interface between the pathogen and its human host. This comprehensive volume summarizes the complex architecture of the mycobacterial cell envelope and presents the major breakthroughs in this field. (Editors: Mamadou Daffé, Institute of Pharmacology and Structural Biology (CNRS), Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France; Jean-Marc Reyrat, Université René Descartes and INSERM, Paris, France).
The 2008 International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases (ICEID) is scheduled for March 16-19, 2008, at the Hyatt Regency, Atlanta, Georgia. The meeting is being organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Society for Microbiology, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, the Association of Public Health Laboratories and the World Health Organization.
The Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) are co-sponsoring the first national meeting dedicated to diagnostic errors in medicine May 31-June 1 in Phoenix. Meeting goals include summarizing the current state of the field and approaches to reducing diagnostic errors, examining the role of clinical decision support systems and identifying ongoing research in diagnostic errors, and stimulating creative thought directed at reducing harm from such errors. Experts plan to explore both system-related contributions to errors and cognitive origins.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has released 2 recommendations for screening pregnant women for bacterial vaginosis. The Task Force recommends against screening for bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women at low risk for preterm delivery. The Task Force concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for bacterial vaginosis in asymptomatic pregnant women at high risk for preterm delivery. These recommendations are published in the February 5 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. Some evidence exists that pregnant women with bacterial vaginosis may be at higher risk for delivering their babies prematurely. The Task Force found that in pregnant women who have bacterial vaginosis, 50 percent of cases resolve without treatment. This recommendation updates the 2001 recommendation on screening for bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women.
Hospitalizations and Deaths Caused by Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, United States, 1999-2005
Extending the Cure Website
A new study on trends in MRSA hospitalizations by Eili Klein, David L. Smith, and Ramanan Laxminarayan was published byEmerging Infectious Diseases in December 2007. The paper, “Hospitalizations and Deaths Caused by Methicillin-ResistantStaphylococcus aureus, United States, 1999-2005” finds dramatic increases in hospitalizations related to MRSA and evidence to suggest that antibiotic-resistant infections are spreading more rapidly in the community as well. To download the paper, go to the Extending the Cure website and scroll down to “Papers.”
New from Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response (COTPER) has released its inaugural report on public health emergency preparedness. The report highlights the progress that has been made in state and local preparedness and response, identifies preparedness challenges facing public health departments, and outlines CDC’s efforts to address those challenges. Designed to increase accountability regarding the country’s investment in preparedness activities, the report presents national data as well as state-specific snapshots for all 50 states and four directly funded localities: Chicago; Los Angeles County; New York City; and Washington, DC.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Immunization Safety Office (ISO) has launched a redesigned website to help the public understand the basics about vaccine safety and directs visitors to a variety of CDC resources about vaccines. The website also describes ISO's public health activities. The site is intended to reach the public with scientifically accurate messages that address widespread myths about the dangers of vaccines. The site also informs CDC partners and the public about ISO vaccine research.
The National Laboratory Training Network (NLTN) is offering a one day, advanced level program to provide an overview of the clinical laboratory’s role in the presumptive identification of primary agents of bioterrorism including anthrax, plague, tularemia, brucellosis, glanders, and melioidosis. Laboratory demonstrations will outline the microbiology of these agents so that participants can recognize the culture, staining and biochemical characteristics. In addition, safety implications of handling suspect organisms in clinical isolates and culture and suspect toxins will be emphasized. Policies related to chain-of-custody specimens will also be reviewed. The meeting is scheduled to take place on May 15 in Columbus, GA.
MM17-A, Verification and Validation of Multiplex Nucleic Acid Assays; Approved Guideline. This guideline provides recommendations for analytic verification and validation of multiplex assays, as well as a review of different types of biologic and synthetic reference materials.
I/LA30-A, Immunoassay Interference by Endogenous Antibodies; Approved Guideline
This guideline discusses the nature and causes of interfering antibodies, as well as their effects on immunoassays and mechanisms by which interference occurs. Methods to identify and characterize the interferences are addressed along with assessment of
methods used to eliminate interference.
M31-A3, Performance Standards for Antimicrobial Disk and Dilution Susceptibility Tests for Bacteria Isolated From Animals; Approved Standard, Third Edition
This document provides the currently recommended techniques for antimicrobial agent disk and dilution susceptibility testing, criteria for quality control testing, and interpretive criteria for veterinary use.
M37-A3, Development of In Vitro Susceptibility Testing Criteria and Quality Control Parameters for Veterinary Antimicrobial Agents; Approved Guideline, Third Edition
This document addresses the required and recommended data needed for selection of appropriate interpretive standards and quality control guidance for new veterinary antimicrobial agents.
April 25, 2008 marks the first annual World Malaria Day. World Malaria Day was established and approved by the World Health Organization in March 2007, and replaces “Africa Malaria Day” which has been commemorated every year since 2001. The Malaria Consortium has been responsible for organizing events around the world to commemorate World Malaria Day.
The American Social Health Association (ASHA) and the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) recognize April as National STD Awareness Month and emphasize testing as a key component for sexual health. According to ASHA, there are nearly 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the U.S. each year, but obvious symptoms often do not develop and many people who contract an STD are unaware they and their partners are at risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine chlamydia testing for women under age 26, and for women who are pregnant or have new or multiple partners. CDC also recommends routine HIV testing for those ages 13-64.
Articles of Interest
New kind of killer virus discovered in Bolivia
, April 18, 2008
A team of disease hunters has announced the discovery of a deadly new virus, found in a remote village in South America.
Revealed: the Asian source of the annual flu epidemic
, April 17, 2008
Now the biggest analysis of flu strains ever has shown it comes from eastern and Southeast Asia, a product of the connectedness of people and the patchiness of the region's rainy seasons.
First successful libraries of avian flu virus antibodies created
, April 17, 2008
An international group of American and Turkish research scientists, led by Sea Lane Biotechnologies, has created the first comprehensive monoclonal antibody libraries against avian influenza (H5N1) using samples from survivors of the 2005/2006 "bird flu" outbreak in Turkey.
Lyme bacteria can 'hide' from medicine, study says
San Mateo County Times
, April 17, 2008
A recent study from the University of California, Davis, provides the first evidence that the bacteria causing Lyme disease can evade antibiotics by "hiding out" in tissue throughout the body and remain infectious long after treatment ends.
West Nile virus on the decline?
, April 14, 2008
Last year was big for West Nile in Canada with 2,353 cases, mostly in the Prairie provinces, but there is a slight chance this year could see lower numbers, says Dr. Harvey Artsob, director of zoonotic diseases at Winnipeg's National Microbiology Laboratory.
USDA scientists say irradiation could be key to food safety
Los Angeles Times
, April 11, 2008
They say the process destroys E. coli and other potentially deadly microbes that chlorine doesn't kill in fruits and vegetables.
Bacteria tails could protect against 'dirty' bomb New Scientist
, April 11, 2008
A drug made out of Salmonella
can protect mice and monkeys from high doses of radiation. It might help protect rescuers who have to enter a radioactive area after attack with a nuclear or "dirty bomb," and also cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.
Getting jump on killer bacteria
, April 10, 2008
A four member team from Belleville hospital employed a new detection system called Agar to root out the deadly superbug VRE (Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci) and there is no doubt that the process will save lives.
Cancer treatment from a common avian virus under study
, April 7, 2008
Researchers on the Blacksburg and College Park, Maryland campuses of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine have been awarded a major new grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support innovative work that seeks to develop a treatment for cancer from a common avian virus.
Alligator blood 'may fight bugs'
, April 6, 2008
Proteins isolated from alligator blood may lead to new antibiotics to treat "superbugs" such as MRSA.
Mud harnessed to fight infection
U.S. News & World Report
, April 6, 2008
Researchers searched world, found 3 clays that beat back the toughest germs.
Deadly bug early detection hope
, April 4, 2008
Scientists have developed a method for quickly detecting a deadly superbug which infects weakened immune systems.
Single virus gene may cause obesity
, April 4, 2008
If obesity seems to be spreading like a virus, that could be because it is. We're now closer to understanding how adenovirus-36 (Ad-36), thought to be responsible for some cases of obesity, causes fat cells to grow.
Soil 'ultra-bugs' thrive on a diet of antibiotics
, April 3, 2008
Call them the "ultra-bugs," bacteria that are not merely resistant to antibiotics, but feed on them. They lurk in dirt from parks, farms and gardens. While the ultra-bugs don't normally cause disease, researchers are concerned the bacteria might pass drug resistance onto their deadly kind.
Thousands hit by Brazil outbreak of dengue
, April 3, 2008
More than 55,000 cases of dengue, a sometimes deadly mosquito-borne disease, have been reported in a southeastern Brazilian state in the past four months.
Scientists uncover how HIV hides inside cells
U.S. News & World Report
, April 1, 2008
U.S. researchers say they've discovered how HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, hides in human cells to avoid being destroyed by the body's immune cells.