Life Under the Microscope: Trypanosoma brucei

First discovered by Sir David Bruce in 1894 and appropriately named after him, Trypanosoma brucei is the causative agent of African trypanosomiasis, also known as “sleeping sickness”. It is prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa. Trypanosoma brucei consists of a group of three organisms: T. brucei gambiense, T. brucei rhodesiense, and T. brucei brucei. While all of these organisms cause trypanosomiasis, T. brucei brucei only infects animals and is not pathogenic in humans. All of these organisms within the disease share the same vector, the tsetse fly.

tsetse

Tsetse fly, the vector of African trypanosomiasis

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Life Under the Microscope: Babesia microti

First reported by Victor Babes in 1888, Babesia microti is an intracellular parasite that infects red blood cells. The infection caused by this organism is known as babesiosis. Originally, Babes had thought the infection was due to the bacterium Haematococcus bovis, however, Theobald Smith and Fred Kilborne correctly identified the parasite as the causative agent in 1893. It was also first believed that this parasite only infected cattle, but again, they were proven wrong after observing a case within a splenectomised patient.

For infections occurring within the United States, the vector of the disease is the tick of the Ixodes species, also the vector of Borrelia burgdorferi , the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. For this reason, coinfections of babesiosis and Lyme disease are common.

TICK

Ixodes scapularis, vector of babesiosis infections

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Lab Chronicles: My Experience in the Hematology Laboratory

The clinical hematology laboratory contains two different types of testing: hematological and coagulation testing. On the hematological side of testing, the main test performed is the complete blood count (CBC), which directly measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and hemoglobin, as well as indirectly measuring other values by calculations (such as the mean corpuscular hemoglobin). These tests are performed using a well-mixed whole blood sample that has been collected in a tube containing ethylene diamine triacetic acid, also known as EDTA. Before hematological results are sent out to the healthcare team, they are reviewed by the medical laboratory technologist (MLT). Any abnormal results that are seen by the MLT (either increased or decreased beyond reference ranges) are made into slides and further microscopic analyses are performed. Some results may even be “critical” in the sense that they are so abnormal that the patient may be at risk of harm if the result is not reported immediately. While reviewing parameters, certain “checks” are also performed as an internal quality control system for the sample. One of these kinds of systems include delta checks, which are a comparison of a patient’s previous results to those most current. While changes in values can occur due to the physiological state of the patient, these internal checks are also great for identifying if a sample was taken from the wrong patient. In addition, H&H checks are performed between the patient’s hemoglobin and hematocrit. The hematocrit should match the hemoglobin within certain values, and if not, an issue with the specimen quality is present, and this should be addressed before results are reported for that patient.

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Lab Chronicles: Three Important Lessons I Learned Performing Phlebotomy

One of the main reasons why I chose the medical laboratory profession was for the behind-the-scenes work in the medical field. Nevertheless, I am thankful for those individuals on the front line of the medical profession, directly taking care of patients and their illnesses. Even though this may have the initial reason that drew me to the medical laboratory profession, I have found, throughout my years in university, that I have many other qualities belonging to that of a medical laboratory technologist: I am analytical, process-driven, and a critical thinker. Nonetheless, there has been one aspect of my program that had me a bit worried… Continue reading

Lab Chronicles: My Experience in the Transfusion Medicine Laboratory Part 2

The Transfusion Medicine laboratory is responsible for the testing and storing of blood products that will eventually be transfused into patients. Many people are familiar with traditional blood transfusions, however, the Transfusion Medicine laboratory carries many other types of blood products that are requested to be transfused into patients, such as platelets, fresh frozen plasma, albumin, etc. Continue reading