we were invited by my people, the clinical lab scientists, to a talk about malaria. however, in light of recent events that talk was changed into a epidemiology look at ebola! it was presented by dr. james griffiths and quite eye opening. i have a pretty good handle on ebola but did not know about the epi part. we went over the origin (geographical) of the virus and the rate of spread. his calculations really put into perspective the spread of the disease and projected numbers for 2015.
it makes me :'(
it seems we had an idea that something was not right even way back in epi week 40 of 2013. and there were multiple chances to squash this virus but we didn't. now it's starting to get out of control. estimates are showing the number of cases doubling every 15-20 days (source: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/su6303a1.htm?s_cid=su6303a1_w ) .
the good news is all hope is not lost and the general public should be aware but NOT PANIC. senegal was able to seal its borders and they have things under control. we have medicin sans frontiere deployed in liberia and maybe if we listen to their needs we can start doing some good. it's going to cost some money but doesn't everything cost money these days?
ok, what's going on with the laboratories. dr. griffiths talked about standard [universal] precautions. and correct use of PPE. risk assesments. things all the clinicians have heard over and over about everything- not just about ebola. hepatitis and tuberculosis and dengue are just as applicable. this is good to hear. the standards are still the standard practice. and we should not get complacent. he also mentioned something that i never considered before- reverting to manual methods to avoid contamination. OMG. this is so right. how are you going to sterilize a 500000$ coulter?? but if you have a hemacytometer, that can be easily be sterilized after use. can't beat the old school methods even after all these years.
for dinner we had a speaker on MALDI-TOF MS. i was really excited for this, maldi is definitely the future of rapid microbial analysis in clinical labs but i don't know how it works exactly... but dr karen frank laid it all out! it uses a laser to perform a mass spec of the bacteria based on time of flight of protein. this creates a signature of peaks- not unlike a chemistry spectra- that is unique to each bacteria. so genius. maldi is in the stages of being validated for clinical use (as opposed to just research use) and being certified by various agencies like FDA and CAP. and as long as you keep updating databases, i can see this being useful for years to come. it has shown to be useful for strain tracking, detection of antibody resistant plasmids, and fungus (so not just bacteria!). it is also showing promising results for direct analysis from blood cultures. that's right, ladies and gentlemen, you don't have to wait for your cultures to grow out anymore! if you blood culture turns positive in the bottles you can sample directly! (well, there are some extraction steps but still, you don't have to wait for it to grow out) problems are: mis-id if there are multiple organisms growing, no id if numbers are too low (less than 10^5 CFU), cannot do sensitivity like a vitek. can't wait until the technology is perfected to ID directly from urine or CSF! will save a lot of time and money compared to other methods like 16s or immunoflourescence on mycobacteria and save a lot of errors from just eyeballing fungus (great study of mis-id of A. niger with unusual molds. interesting to see if we will discover they are actually contaminants or they are actually NEW pathogens).
of course the best part is hanging out with my lab homies outside the lab! saw a bunch of DOH/SLD people i haven't seen in years (omg kris!!! miss that dude!) and old friends that work in competitor labs around the island that i haven't seen since 2010. as usual, the UH microbiology club was there, the grad students whom we all admire and love, and our all knowing professors. i would like to point out that we gave a nod to the recently passed Dr. Berger and Dr. Alam was saying last year at this time we saw the passing of Dr. Low. his colleage suggested "maybe we should make this a tradition...?" and Alam was like "oh my god, which one of us is going to die next year! :O " haha. i liked the academic atmosphere mixed with more relaxed colleagues. great minds and ideas abound! food was average but the company was nice. it's a shame i wont be able to make it to the symposia in the next two days (i was sort of interested in Dr. Chan's talk on using flow cytometry for IDing blood cancers but maybe another time...)
also, i got ebola:
yes, an anatomically correct ebola! thanks to dr. griffiths
and my date for the night:
sorry for the technical and boring post (it was interesting to me!), here is some tigers jaw for you:
and a good acoustic version as well: