Bobbi Pritt, M.D., Director of the Clinical Parasitology Laboratory and Co-Director of Vector-Borne Diseases Lab Services in Mayo Clinic’s Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, was recently featured in an article in CAP TODAY discussing how to recognize parasites in tissue.
Even for pathologists who aren’t microbiologists, it is possible to identify several types of parasitic infections, including Naegleria fowleri and maggots. According to Dr. Pritt, a few patients die from Naegleria fowleri, a brain-eating bacteria, every year in the U.S. “It’s usually devastating,” says Dr. Pritt, since the patient is often a young child who becomes infected by swimming in a lake or inadequately chlorinated swimming pool. Minnesota has had two such cases in the past 10 years.
In diagnosing Naegleria fowleri, time is of the essence. If there are signs of inflammatory response and structures that could possibly be amebae, pictures can be taken and sent to the CDC, which can advise the health care provider on the appropriate drug regimen.
For anatomic pathologists trying to identify a maggot specimen received in their laboratory, Dr. Pritt has other advice: “if you get an intact worm, send it to microbiology…Unfortunately, once you start cutting it up, if you don’t cut it in the right angle—if you cut it obliquely instead of cross sectional—you might obscure the diagnostic features.”