The American Association of Blood Banks, America’s Blood Centers, the American Red Cross and the Department of Defense have initiated a voluntary market withdrawal of selected frozen blood products to reduce the risk of West Nile Virus (WNV) transmission through blood transfusion. To date, 13 persons have been identified who acquired WNV infection from blood components from eight blood donors. Transfusions of red blood cells, platelets and fresh frozen plasma from infected donors appear to have been the cause. The frozen products under voluntary quarantine are those collected in areas where mosquito-borne transmission of WNV to humans was identified by surveillance during 2002.

The market withdrawal includes both products that are in the blood collection facility and products that have been shipped to hospitals for transfusion. The identified periods to which the quarantine applies vary from state to state and were developed in consultation with the CDC, based on review of epidemiologic and surveillance data.

Blood centers and hospitals have been advised to immediately quarantine all frozen products collected during the defined risk period, which is generally defined in each state as beginning seven days prior to the onset of symptoms of the first reported meningoencephalitis case, through the seventh day after the onset of symptoms of the last reported case in that state. Tables for relevant time periods for each state are available on the AABB’s Web site, In all, 34 states plus the District of Columbia are affected.

The exception to the voluntary market withdrawal is frozen rare red cell products, which are to be handled in conformance with existing protocols for emergency release and transfusion of red cells.

If quarantined products must be transfused due to medical need, it is strongly advised that transfusion services manage their inventories to avoid transfusion of products collected during the peak incidence week for each applicable state (see table referenced above), selectively using products collected as near as possible to the beginning and end of the defined risk periods. It is further recommended that transfusion of products collected during the risk period be avoided whenever possible for immunocompromised, elderly or perinatal patients.

 Panel alters stance on routine prostate cancer screening
In what is being called a softening of it’s 1996 recommendation against routine prostate cancer screening for men, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, has concluded that there is insufficient evidence on whether such screening improves health outcomes.

In findings published in the December 3, 2002 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, the Task Force finds that prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests and digital rectal exams are effective in detecting disease, but have not yet demonstrated improvement in long-term health outcomes. The panel recommends that clinicians who opt to perform prostate cancer screening for individual patients first discuss both the potential benefits and the possible harm from the tests, including the possibility that false-positive results will lead to unnecessary anxiety, biopsies, and potential complications from treating some early cancers that may never have affected a patient’s health. Such complications include erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence and bowel dysfunction.

Task Force Chairman Alfred Berg, M.D., MPH, professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle said, “Men will need to make this decision based on their personal preferences and values until we have better scientific evidence on whether screening is effective.”

The prostate cancer screening recommendation and materials for clinicians are available at

PerkinElmer announces new, highly sensitive assays for type 1 diabetes monitoring in research settings
PerkinElmer of Boston, Mass., has announced the availability of GAD65 Ab and IA-2 Ab autoantibody kits for monitoring individuals atrisk of type 1 diabetes, formally referred to as “juvenile” diabetes. The Delfia GAD65 Ab and Delfia IA-2 Ab commercial assays, approved for research in the U.S., will enable pharmaceutical companies, together with the research groups, to search for possible drug candidates for a cure of type 1 diabetes much faster than ever before.

“There is currently no effective intervention therapy to delay or prevent the onset of the disease. However, some experts suggest that even in the absence of a proven intervention therapy, it is very useful to identify those children at risk of developing type 1 diabetes,” said Peter Coggins, Ph.D., president of PerkinElmer Life and Analytical Sciences. “Many international studies have shown that there are fewer emergency cases and deaths in populations where individuals have a knowledge of their individual risk of becoming diabetic.”

PerkinElmer’s autoantibody tests offer a great benefit to the growing number of pharmaceutical companies whose efforts are directed toward new therapies for type 1 diabetes. Using these tests, progression of early type 1 diabetes can be monitored by the levels of islet cell autoantibodies in blood circulation, and therefore the effectiveness of novel drug candidates can be determined. Studies also show that non-diabetic individuals who express combinations of islet autoantibodies are at greatly increased risk for type 1 diabetes compared with individuals who express fewer autoantibodies.

According to PerkinElmer, these new tests are more precise, reproducible, and robust than RBAs (radio binding assays),the current method for testing for type 1 diabetes, and are much simpler and quicker to perform, with sensitivity and specificity similar or better than that obtained with RBA.

Gen-Probe initiates arbitration concerning NAT viral diagnostics collaboration with Bayer Corporation
Gen-Probe, Inc. of San Diego, Calif. announced that it has initiated an arbitration proceeding with respect to its collaboration with Bayer Corporation for nucleic acid diagnostic tests for viral organisms. Under the terms of the collaboration agreement, Bayer acquired the exclusive right to distribute nucleic acid diagnostic tests designed and developed by Gen-Probe for the detection of HIV, hepatitis and other specified viruses, subject to certain conditions. Gen-Probe’s demand for arbitration states that Bayer has failed to fulfill the conditions required to maintain exclusive distribution rights. The arbitration demand seeks confirmation that the agreement grants Gen-Probe, in the present circumstances, a co-exclusive right to directly distribute the viral diagnostic tests that are the subject of the agreement.

“We commenced arbitration only after our efforts to initiate executive level mediation failed,” said Henry L. Nordhoff, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Gen-Probe. “Contractual disputes concerning collaboration agreements are not uncommon and we are confident that the issues will be resolved equitably through the dispute resolution procedures contained in our collaboration agreement. We do not expect the contractual disputes to cause any interruption to product development, product delivery, or customer support.”

 Leptin is identified in study as the link between breast cancer and obesity
The relationship between increased body fat and increased breast cancer risk has been established for some time, and now research published in the November 20, 2002 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has identified the growth factor leptin as the link between the two.

Research conducted at the University of Minnesota has found that leptin promotes breast cancer cell growth. A lack of leptin or its receptor was also found to be associated with a lack of breast tissue development in mice.

Obesity itself is considered to be a risk factor for breast cancer, with more aggressive disease and poorer prognosis shown at time of diagnosis. This study shows that in the presence of leptin the number of breast cells increases, disproportionately favoring cancerous cells, which increased by 150 percent, compared with a 50 percent increase for normal breast cells. It was also found that only the breast cancer cell line that was exposed to leptin showed the ability to promote tumor growth and development.

 Nikon 2003 small world photomicrography winners are touring in an exhibit in cities through U.S. and Canada
Twenty photographs, submitted by photomicrographers from around the globe, are winners of the 28th Annual Nikon Small World International Photomicrography Competition, and are touring 16 cities between December 2002 and January 2004.

“When the Small World gallery of winning images launches as an exhibit each year, what was once a science specimen under a microscope becomes curated art for public consumption and appreciation,” says Lee Shuett, Executive Vice President of Nikon Instruments Inc. “We are proud to be able to educate people about the importance of photomicrography in scientific research while integrating science into mainstream art.”

For more information about the Nikon International Small World Competition, or to obtain this year’s winning images, contact Victoria Amari at 973-376-9300 or via e-mail at [email protected], or visit MicroscopyU, Nikon’s educational website, at

The 2003 Small World Tour

  • February 3, 2003 — March 21, 2003 — Arizona Science Center, Phoenix, Ariz.
  • April 7, 2003 — May 30, 2003 — The Science Factory, Eugene, Ore.
  • June 16, 2003 — July 25, 2003 — Oregon Museum of Science, Portland, Ore.
  • August 11, 2003 — September 26, 2003 — American Museum of Science & Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn.
  • December 2, 2002 — January 17, 2003 — New York Hall of Science, Corona, N.Y.
  • February 10, 2003 — March 21, 2003 — Museum of Science and Technology, Syracuse, N.Y.
  • April 14, 2003 — May 30, 2003 — Fernbank Science Center, Atlanta, Ga.
  • June 16, 2003 — July 25, 2003 — Marine Biology Laboratory, Woods Hole, Mass.
  • August 11, 2003 — September 26, 2003 — Cumberland Science Museum, Nashville, Tenn.
  • October 20, 2003 — January 16, 2004 — Museum of Science and Industry, Tampa, Fla.
  • December 2, 2002 — January 31, 2003 — Science World, Vancouver, Canada
  • February 17, 2003 — April 21, 2003 — Science Center of Connecticut, West Hartford, Conn.
  • June 16, 2003 — July 25, 2003 — The Science Place, Dallas, Tex.
  • August 11, 2003 — October 24, 2003 — Gulf Coast Exploreum, Mobile, Ala.
  • November 17, 2003 — January 14, 2004 — Texas A&M University’s John Conner Museum, Kingsville, Tex.
  • January 30, 2004 – On Display For One Year — Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, N.Y.

 Cleaning needles with bleach may prevent spread of HCV among injection drug users
Researchers from the New York Academy of Medicine note in the December 2002 issue of Epidemiology that injection drug users who report always cleaning their needles with bleach were 65 percent less likely to be infected with HCV than those who never used bleach. Among those who disinfected their syringes some of the time, the infection risk was 24 percent lower. Roughly two-thirds of study participants were not infected with hepatitis C at the beginning of the study, but of those who started out uninfected, 78 percent seroconverted by the end of the two-year period. Hepatitis C infection was more common among those who shared needles, cotton, water and cookers, or used drugs in a public place.

Though abstaining and using clean syringes both clearly offer better protection against the spread of disease, the authors conclude that using bleach to clean syringes offers an easy, inexpensive way to reduce the risk of hepatitis C. The cleaning method is to fill the syringes with the disinfectant and empty them, repeating the process three times.

Bleaching may even offer some protection against HIV, according to a study leader. “Bleach was better than doing nothing,” Dr. David Vlahov said. “But it was not a substitute for new clean needles each and every time.”

Abbott and Tecan announce an agreement on automated sample preparation systems for molecular diagnostics
Abbott Laboratories of Abbott Park, Ill., and Tecan of Zurich, Switzerland, have announced a long-term supply agreement for the development and commercialization of an automated sample preparation system for molecular diagnostic assays.

The system is based on a magnetic separator system, proprietary to Abbott, which will be integrated onto Tecan’s Genesis Freedom automated robotic and liquid handling workstation. This new system is designed to streamline the nucleic acid sample preparation steps prior to performing Abbott’s molecular diagnostic assays for hepatitis C and HIV, marketed outside the United States, and other future molecular assays from Abbott and its alliance partner, Celera Diagnostics. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Under the terms of the agreement, Tecan will be responsible for manufacturing the instruments and Abbott will distribute them worldwide and provide technical support and service.

“Abbott has demonstrated feasibility using a highly innovative magnetic separator system that offers major advantages for nucleic acid sample preparation,” said Christophe Mauracher, head of global marketing for clinical diagnostics at Tecan. “Our automated Genesis Freedom platform is the ideal partner for this technology since it will significantly increase the throughput and productivity of both nucleic acid sample preparation and subsequent important clinical diagnostic tests.”

The worldwide launch of the automated sample preparation system is planned for the first quarter of 2003.

 NIH awards $10.6 million to study how genes and lifestyle among Amish affect cardiovascular risk
An endocrinologist and head of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Nutrition at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Alan R. Shuldiner, M.D., has been awarded a $10.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how genes and lifestyle factors influence people’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The study focuses on an Amish population about whom Dr. Shuldiner and colleagues have already gathered extensive genetic data for another study. This group is of particular interest because of its homogeneity. They are excellent subjects for genetic research because they can trace their ancestry back 14 generations to a small group of families who came to the United States from Europe in the mid-1700s, they have large families themselves, they keep detailed genealogical records and the study participants have a similar rural lifestyle.

The study will look for genes that may explain differences in how participants respond to four interventions that mimic lifestyle factors known to affect cardiovascular disease — a high-fat meal, a high- and low-salt diet, aspirin and a cold stress stimulus.

“This is really the first attempt to directly try to identify specific chromosomal regions and ultimately genes that interact with lifestyle characteristics to increase the risks of cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Shuldiner. “We may be able to identify genes that can be used as markers to identify individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease or find new biological pathways, which could lead to new medications and potentially even gene therapy.”

The results of the study will not be limited to the Amish. “We believe that our findings will apply to the general Caucasian population in the United States and Europe, and maybe even to a broader group of people as well,” he says.

The 1,000 people to be studied under the new grant are also taking part in the Amish Family Calcification Study, which is looking at bone density and coronary artery disease. As part of that study, researchers have performed 800 genetic tests throughout the entire genome in each of the participants. In the new cardiovascular study, Dr. Shuldiner and his co-investigators from the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan will use highly sophisticated computer programs to try to link these genes to cardiovascular changes resulting from lifestyle factors.

Researchers will take blood samples to retrieve DNA and to measure a person’s cholesterol levels and blood-clotting ability before and after aspirin therapy. They will monitor blood pressure during a high- and low-salt diet and use ultrasound equipment to measure the ability of the main artery in the upper arm to dilate properly after the wrist and hand are immersed in ice water to simulate stress and later after a high-fat meal.