“September 29, 2003 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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There was cautious optimism among lab industry leaders lobbying Congress to stop the proposed 20% co- payment for Part B laboratory testing services. It seems that, over the summer break, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley got a lesson in grass roots lobbying. At a number of town meetings, irate seniors showed up and asked pointed questions to the Senator about the need to institute the 20% co-pay. Grassley is considered the prime mover behind this proposal and now indicates he’s considering alternatives.

MORE ON: 20% Co-pay

It appears that the efforts of independent laboratories in Iowa to educate seniors about the 20% lab test co-pay did prove effective. The American Association of Bio-Analysts (AABA) had encouraged its members to post flyers about the 20% lab test co-pay in their patient service centers. Some seniors learned about the 20% co-pay when they saw these posters and specifically attended town meetings in that state to con- front Senator Grassley about the issue. This is one lobbying method that the lab industry should use more often.

GENETIC TESTS MAY I.D. HEALTH WORKERS’ RISK TO DISEASES

One consequence of the SARS outbreak in Asia last winter is the tantalizing possibility that it may be feasible to use genetic tests to identify people most at risk if infected by SARS, including healthcare workers. The study was done at Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan. Researchers in the hospital’s transplant department had accumulated years of data on genes that produce human leukocyte antigens (HLA), proteins involved in the human immune system. During the SARs epidemic last March, researchers collected blood samples from 37 local SARS patients and three “control groups” comprising 319 non-infected individuals. Five of the six most severely-infected patients had the gene HLA-B46. All these patients required treatment on the mechanical ventilator and all but one died.

ADD TO: Genetic Test

Researchers considered this finding statistically significant, because the gene is found in no more than 15% of Taiwan’s population. The study further revealed that the gene was present in 12 of the SARS patients, or twice the rate of non-infected people in the control group. Further studies are needed before firm conclusions can be made. But the researchers noted that one value for such a genetic test would be to screen healthcare workers during a SARs epidemic. Those with a genetic predisposition to have a severe reaction to the disease could then be assigned work away from SARs wards.

SEEN IN BRAZIL

While THE DARK REPORT was in Brazil recently for the 37th “Congresso Brasileiro de Patologica Clinica,” held in Rio de Janeiro, a number of pathologists and lab directors from the United States were in the country giving presentations and consulting with laboratories. Among those Americans found south of the equator during this time were: Kenneth McClatchey, M.D., of Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, James H. Nichols, Ph.D., of Bay State Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Erlo Roth, M.D., Hinsdale Pathology Associates in Hinsdale, Chicago.

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