Blood tests for concussion | Hidden Zika epidemic | Targeted prenatal genetic screening

Dear LabPulse Member,

Within the past week, two different groups reported promising results about blood testing as a noninvasive diagnostic method for assessing brain injuries.

In a study published in BMJ Paediatrics Open, emergency room doctors reported on the use of two biomarkers -- glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase L1 (UCH-L1) -- to identify pediatric and adult trauma patients with subconcussive injuries, meaning that they were asymptomatic. The hope is that picking up on these injuries will help prevent brain damage.

Separately, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco reported on the value of measuring GFAP in patients suspected of having a concussion or mild brain injury, using a commercially available point-of-care test (i-Stat Alinity, Abbott). The results, which were published in Lancet Neurology, suggest that testing could help find injuries that otherwise might go undetected with imaging studies alone.

In other research news, prenatal screening for chromosomal disorders is typically done through serum and ultrasound testing; even though whole-genome sequencing is available, it's expensive, which is a deterrent for use. PerkinElmer is among the companies developing targeted approaches for noninvasive prenatal testing that are less resource-intensive. The company reported high sensitivity and specificity for its Vanadis cell-free DNA assay in detecting Down syndrome.

The Zika virus may have a mild presentation in terms of symptoms, but it is dreaded due to its consequences, notably birth defects caused by the transmission of infection from pregnant women to their children. A new study indicates that outbreaks of the virus may be going unreported to public health authorities. Researchers discovered an outbreak in Cuba in 2017 that went undetected by the international health community. What's the take-home message? Diagnostic testing in the U.S. of international travelers is very helpful in understanding outbreaks in other locations, the researchers said. has been up and running for almost five months now, and we were pleased to make our debut at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) annual meeting in August. We have been growing fast and are happy to be signing up many new members to our online community. If you are a new member, welcome! Please look up our conference coverage from the AACC meeting, including video interviews, and know that our door is always open to feedback on what you would like to see us cover. We are also looking forward to starting an online library of pathology case studies and encourage you to contribute.

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