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Medical Laboratory Science News

Histoplasma capsulatumIn November 2018, the Louisiana Department of Health received a call about two patients, one thought to have viral pneumonia and the other an unknown respiratory illness. Both were hospitalized and treated with medicines for pneumonia, yet their symptoms would not go away. After consultation with an infectious disease specialist, the patients were tested and diagnosed with histoplasmosis. Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by a fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum, that is found in the droppings of birds and bats in humid areas. Upon further investigation, the Louisiana Department of Health discovered that the two patients had recently been on a camping trip and found that half of the campers on the trip were sick with histoplasmosis.

With an outbreak at hand, Louisiana Department of Health teamed up with the Centers for Disease Control, Mycotic Diseases Branch, to find the cause of the histoplasmosis outbreak. To find out how the camper got sick, officials investigated the activities of the campers for possible cause, particularly any that would bring them into contact with bird or bat droppings. Most people who encounter the fungus, do so through soil that contains large amount of bird or bat poop. Once the soil is disturbed, spores from the fungus are inhaled. Once inside the lungs, a person’s body temperature stimulates the fungus to transform into a yeast. The yeast can then travel throughout the body. Activities that the campers participated in ranged from hiking, collecting firewood, digging soil and geocaching. Geocaching is like a digital scavenger hunt where players locate objects and sites using an app. After touring several of the geocaching sites, they found one where an object was hidden in the soil at the bottom of a hollow tree. When officials took a closer look, they found it to be the home of bats. They immediately tested the soil, and it came back positive for Histoplasma capsulatum.

After a high-risk area is identified there are several steps the department of health takes in order to prevent further outbreaks. First, they educate the campground staff about the risk and symptoms of histoplasmosis, such as people with weakened immune systems being at a higher risk of severe infection. The second is to recommend that campers avoid disturbing soil in areas that may contain bird or bat droppings. Finally, they recommended that public health officials and health care providers increase the awareness about histoplasmosis at campgrounds, particularly in Louisiana.

Written by Lauren Clabough

MMDD 2019

The weather was beautiful on Friday, October 4th for Mustangs Make a Difference Day!  The day includes all of the First-Year Seminar classes, as well as some clubs and organizations. This campus-wide day of service for students, faculty and staff is designed to make a positive difference while furthering commitment to one of the university’s core values, that of promoting a sense of community.

Students in the Medical Laboratory Science Program created "goody bags" for parents of babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Sinai Hospital.  Inside the bags, students were able to place toiletries, note pads, game books and notes of encouragement for parents.  The bags will be delivered to the NICU nurses for distribution to the parents in the near future. 

Medical laboratory professionals are an integral part of the healthcare team, providing the valuable laboratory data that drives over 70% of medical decision making, even for the smallest patients. 

Blood SamplesImagine you are a Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS) in a large teaching hospital. After running a routine specimen for a 38 year-old female who was admitted for abdominal pain and weakness, you obtain these lab results:

BUN: 18 (7-20 mg/dl)

Na: 140 (135-145 mmol/L)

K: 1.9 (3.5-5.1 mmol/L)

Cl: 128 (98-107 mmol/L)

CO2: 15 (21-21 mg/dL)

Glucose: 99 (70-99 mg/dL)

Creatinine: 0.78 (0.50-1.30 mg/dL)

Ca: 9.0 (8.5-10.1 mg/dL)

Anion Gap: 2.0 (7-16 mmol/L)

As an MLS, you are alarmed by the three abnormal and critical values that delta from previous results and need to decide what the next step is. Do you release the results as is? Do you ask the provider what they think about the results? Do you ask the nurse for a redraw?

Now before you decide too quickly, let’s take a second look at the values and what they mean in relation to each other. The potassium may catch your eye, telling you that something isn’t right. The fact that it is very low in conjunction with the chloride and carbon dioxide makes you highly suspect a spurious value. Because of your clinical laboratory education, you remember that if drawn improperly, normal saline (containing sodium and chloride) would cause the chloride to increase, potassium to decrease, thus causing a decrease in the anion gap. The CO2 would also be falsely decreased with IV saline. Because of your clinical laboratory training, you know that the IV contaminated specimen compromises the care of the patient, causing anything from unnecessary or delayed treatment and costs to severe harm and fatality. In order to help clinicians and protect patients, you as the laboratorian will decide to cancel the specimen and request a redraw, after communicating with the appropriate clinical staff.

While this is only one example, there are many pre-analytical variables that affect laboratory results. Spurious values can be caused by mislabeled specimens, infusions, blood transfusions, wrong tube pour-over, incorrect order of draw, among other technical errors. Although there are delta checks put into place, the laboratorian’s clinical judgment and knowledge is crucial to be able to differentiate an actual valid result from a spurious one. It is up to the clinical laboratorian to not only identify these situations, but also investigate to determine the cause and communicate with clinical staff as appropriate, making this role vital to patient safety and care. Medical laboratory professionals are essential members of the healthcare team.

Submitted by Jelinda Easo '19

The Medical Laboratory Science Program at Stevenson University has some amazing alumni!  2017 graduate Cody Maddox was hired before graduation in the Point of Care Department at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore.  Sinai has a Superstar program that rewards employees who demonstrate superior customer service that is recognized by patients and co-workers. Cody quickly rose to "superstar" fame in June, earning the praise of his colleagues and management.  Some statements that earned him this recognition are:  "Cody has an upbeat and professional demeanor that inspires those around him to match that level of behavior.  He has a good sense of humor that allows him to handle stressful situations in a positive manner and comes to work engaged in every aspect of his job.  He is an excellent role model to all staff in the form of accountability and service excellence."  Way to go Cody!  Your Stevenson University family is very proud of you!

Want to learn more about this amazing, versatile and engaging profession?  Visit us at http://www.stevenson.edu/academics/undergraduate-programs/medical-laboratory-science/

Medical Laboratory Science is a little known profession, but one of tremendous importance to everyone's health and well being.  Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) underscored the importance of laboratory diagnostics, publishing a Model List of Essential In Vitro Diagnostics (EDL).  This list consists of 58 laboratory tests considered essential for the diagnosis, treatment and health maintenance of just about everyone.  The WHO publication stresses the importance of these essential laboratory tests, especially in under-served populations.  With a small amount of blood or body fluid, medical laboratory professionals can provide a wealth of information vital to the health and well being of the patient. 

The link between early detection and prevention of disease and quality of life cannot be overstated.  Medical laboratory professionals are needed now more than ever.  There has been, and continues to be, a critical shortage of these professionals.  Demand is high, salaries are rising and job opportunities are varied, fascinating and cutting edge.  We are the "little known profession"- but doctors and other health practitioners simply cannot do their jobs without us and the health of the world's population depends on us.  Think about that.  Are you looking for a career in healthcare?  Are you a critical thinker who likes to solve problems?  Do you enjoy science?  Think about becoming a medical laboratory professional.  You can get there with a degree from Stevenson University.      

 
 
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