As a deployable medical laboratory, the 1st AML is designed to run field-based clinical laboratory diagnostics and conduct health threat assessments
Clinical laboratory professionals may be surprised to learn that the US Army has a deployable medical laboratory that is equipped to perform the same menu of basic lab tests as their labs here in the United States, but in support of army units deployed in the field. At the same time, the Army’s deployable medical lab has the added responsibility of testing for infectious diseases and chemicals/agents that could be used by terrorists or enemy forces.
“The 1st Area Medical Laboratory identifies and evaluates health hazards through unique medical laboratory analyses and rapid health hazard assessments of nuclear, biological, chemical, endemic disease, occupational, and environmental health threats,” according to an Army new release.
A recent visit by the leaders of this lab unit to meet with their counterparts in Poland highlights the important diagnostic work the military prepares for by using this one-of-a-kind clinical laboratory model.
Col. Matthew Grieser (left), Commander of the 1st Area Medical Laboratory (AML) is shown above meeting with Col. Przemysław Makowski, MD, (right), Deputy Commander of the Military Preventive Medicine Center in Wrocław, Poland. Leaders from the US Army’s 1st AML visited military and medical officials in Poland. “It was a great opportunity to meet our Polish counterparts and to learn from one another,” said Grieser in an Army news release. “We intend to continue to strengthen this relationship … Poland is a great ally, and it was an honor to visit our counterpart organizations.” (Photo copyright: US Army.)
Role and Makeup of the 1st Area Medical Laboratory
The 1st AML traces its roots back to World War II, where it was one of 19 field laboratories spun up in 1944. It was deactivated after the Vietnam War and then reactivated in 2004. It is currently the Army’s only deployable field laboratory, according to the National Library of Medicine.
This specialized unit deploys worldwide to conduct threat detection and medical surveillance, according to the Army. For example, the military can send the 1st AML to locations where samples cannot quickly be transported to a fixed facility, or where there is a need for immediate hazard identification due to chemical or biological contamination or epidemic disease.
During the Ebola outbreak in Liberia in 2014-2015, the 1st AML operated four blood-testing laboratories and helped oversee two others manned by Navy personnel. The goal was to perform quick turnaround times to identify local residents who carried the disease, all while operating with extensive safety measures. More than 4,500 samples were tested during a six-month stay, Army Times reported.
Commanders from the 1st AML recently met with medical officials and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear experts from the Polish Armed Forces in the Warsaw area of Poland, the Army news release noted.
“It was a great opportunity to meet our Polish counterparts and to learn from one another,” said Col. Matthew Grieser, Commander of the 1st AML.
Maj. Suzanne Mate, the Chief of chemical threat assessment for the 1st AML, said meeting with allies helps to keep NATO ready for any contingency.
“It’s better to know your partners before you have to work together in a high-consequence situation,” said Mate in the Army news release. “We learned the strengths in different mobility platforms for laboratories and the capabilities within fixed scientific institutions to maintain standards and currency in chemical, biological, and radiological [CBR] investigations.
“This knowledge is invaluable when determining how to move a sample quickly and efficiently to characterize a suspected CBR threat when airlift resources are constrained or country treaties prevent movement activities,” she added.
Observant clinical laboratory managers will note similarities between their own jobs and those of the 1st AML. The military needs lab-based capabilities to perform a menu of diagnostic tests in support of Army units in the field and traditional clinical laboratories do the same in support of the healthcare providers they service.
Viral reservoir could be behind persistence, says study, which also suggests a blood biomarker could be found for clinical laboratory testing
Microbiologists and virologists working closely with physicians treating long COVID-19 patients will gain new insights in a study that found coronavirus spike protein in COVID-19 patients’ blood up to 12 months after diagnosis. The researchers believe their findings could be used to develop a clinical laboratory biomarker for long COVID-19.
“The half-life of spike protein in the body is pretty short, so its presence indicates that there must be some kind of active viral reservoir,” said David Walt, PhD (above), Professor of Pathology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and lead author of the study that found coronavirus spike protein in long COVID patients. The study findings indicate a potential clinical laboratory biomarker for long COVID-19. (Photo copyright: Brigham and Women’s Hospital.)
Viral Reservoir Possibly Behind Long COVID-19
The study suggests that SARS-CoV-2 finds a home in the body, particularly the gastrointestinal tract, “through viral reservoirs, where it continues to release spike protein and trigger inflammation,” Medical News Today reported.
Lead author of the study David Walt, PhD, Professor of Pathology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Hansjörg Wyss Professor Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Medical School, told The Guardian he “was motivated to carry out the study after earlier research by his colleagues detected genetic material from the COVID virus (viral RNA) in stool samples from children with multisystem inflammatory syndrome (a rare but serious condition that often strikes around four weeks after catching COVID) as well as spike protein and a marker of gut leakiness in their blood.”
Long COVID—also known as long-haul COVID, post-COVID-19, or its technical name, post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 or PASC—can involve health problems continuing weeks, months, or even years after a positive diagnosis, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Symptoms of long COVID, according to the researchers, include:
loss of smell,
gastrointestinal distress, and
shortness of breath.
“If someone could somehow get to that viral load and eliminate it, it might lead to resolution of symptoms,” Walt told the Boston Globe, which noted that the researchers may explore a clinical trial involving antiviral drugs for treatment of long COVID-19.
Although these earlier studies provided clues, the cause of PASC remains unclear, the researchers noted. They planned to take a more precise look at PASC biology by using appropriate sampling and patient recruitment.
“Disentangling the complex biology of PASC will rely on the identification of biomarkers that enable classification of patient phenotypes. Here, we analyze plasma samples collected from PASC and COVID-19 patients to determine the levels of SARS-CoV-2 antigens and cytokines and identify a blood biomarker that appears in the majority of PASC patients,” the researchers wrote.
Finding a Marker of a Persistent Infection
The researchers used plasma samples from 63 people with a previous SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis (37 also had PASC), Medical News Today reported. Over a 12-month period, the researchers’ findings included:
Detection in 65% of PASC samples of full-length spike, S1 spike, and nucleocapsid throughout the year of testing.
Spike detected in 60% of PASC patient samples, and not found in the COVID-19 samples.
In an interview with Scientific American, bioengineer Zoe Swank PhD, post-doctoral researcher, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and co-author of the study, said, “Our main hypothesis is that the spike protein is not causing the symptoms, but it’s just a marker that is released because you still have infection of some cells with SARS-CoV-2.”
In that article, Swank shared the scientists’ intent to do more research involving hundreds of samples over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic from many hospitals and people.
COVID-19 Not the Only Virus That Hangs On
Having a long-haul COVID-19 marker is a “game-changer,” according to an infectious disease expert who was not involved in the study.
“There has not so far been a clear, objective marker that is measurable in the blood of people experiencing long COVID-19,” Michael Peluso, MD, Assistant Professor, Medicine, University of California San Francisco, told Scientific American. “I hope their findings will hold up. It really would make a difference for a lot of people if a marker like this could be validated,” he added.
However, COVID-19 is not the only virus that could persist. Ebola also may linger in areas that skirt the immune system, such as the eye interior and central nervous system, according to a World Health Organization fact sheet.
Thus, medical laboratory leaders may want to follow the Brigham and Women’s Hospital research to see if the scientists validate their finding, discover a biomarker for long-haul COVID-19, and pursue a clinical trial for antiviral drugs. Such discoveries could have implications for how diagnostic professionals work with physicians to care for long COVID patients.
This year, one of IBM’s closely-watched picks of the technologies most likely to have the greatest impact on society is the medical lab-on-a-chip
Clinical laboratory testing and diagnostics are one of the five technologies included in IBM’s 2017 list of the technologies it predicts will have the greatest impact on society during the next five years. Of equal interest to medical laboratory professionals is that several of the other technologies included in IBM’s list have the potential be used in medical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups.
IBM Research, corporate research laboratory for parent company IBM (NYSE:IBM), has more than 3,000 researchers working in 12 labs on six continents. Each year the lab releases a list of five technologies it forecasts will have the greatest influence on how our bodies, minds, society, and the planet, develop over the next five years. The list is called “5-in-5” and has been released annually for the past 10 years by the tech giant. (more…)
Paper-based devices could perform complex, multistep diagnostic tests at a fraction of the cost of traditional medical laboratory analysis
Many research teams are racing to create paper-based devices for medical laboratory tests. Their primary goal is develop a cheap, fast, reliable way to perform diagnostic testing in third world settings, where modern clinical laboratories are few and far between. One development team is working to combine lab-on-a-chip technologies with the low cost of paper-based platforms.
Meanwhile, over the past decade, point-of-care testing (POCT) has revolutionized diagnosis and treatment options for a myriad of conditions. In developing regions or remote areas, low-cost POCT improves accessibility to vital tests for infectious diseases, such as HIV,Malaria, and Ebola, as well as acute medical conditions, such as sepsis.
In the past eight years, Dark Daily has reported many times on the emergence of new POCT devices. From lactic acid screening to the lab-in-a-needle, which is used for detecting liver toxicity, the ability to produce a quick and accurate diagnosis without intensive clinical laboratory testing is growing.
However, one area where many POCT devices face challenges is in surviving extended environmental exposure. This does not pose an issue in major research hospitals or health systems. However, the consequences can be severe when considering the often harsh, resource-limited conditions of developing countries—one area in which POCT stands to offer the greatest value. (more…)
Of the five trends described in a report published by Kalorama, only two made the list for both years: Consolidation within the IVD industry and growth in molecular point of care
What a difference one year can make in the most significant trends influencing the in vitro diagnostics (IVD) industry, which also influences clinical laboratories, the largest customers of IVD manufacturers. These insights come from comparing the top five IVD trends for 2016 as identified by Kalorama Information from its top five IVD trends that it says dominated during 2015.
Kalorama is a division of MarketResearch.com, a company that publishes market research in the life sciences. In a report titled, “Five IVD Market Trends to Watch for in 2016,” it published its picks for the top five trends in IVD testing for 2016. The five most prominent trends recognized by the healthcare research marketer are as follows: (more…)