MLS team research presented at national conference

by Jordana Newman  |   

Research from the UAA Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) team was presented today at the annual American Society for Clinical Laboratory Scientist conference. Their research “Examination of Escherichia coli 0157 Colonization in Alaskan Bear” was accepted for both poster and oral presentation, which is a big accomplishment according to MLS program director Grace Leu Burke as their abstract was one of only three selected for oral student sitting at desk 

The research focused on wildlife fecal samples (migrating caribou, moose, and bear) that were evaluated from 2018 to 2020 to determine if enteric pathogens were creating the potential for game to be an unrecognized source of food poisoning. The research states, "Our study of 125 fecal samples determined 66% of samples showed no enteric pathogens. Although all species had some colonization of Shigella, bear species were heavily contaminated with additional pathogens of Salmonella, Yersinia and 20% contained Escherichia coli 0157:H7. Finding Shiga toxin Escherichia coli colonization represented an increased health risk. Wild bear have not proven to be a host of toxigenic E. coli and therefore discovery of colonization suggests a change in either environmental conditions or bear feeding habits. Anchorage has seen an uptake of bear roaming within city limits, increasing trash consumption, a potential exposure to infectious agents. Isolation of 0157 Escherichia coli in bear establishes a potential risk of food poisoning and hemolytic uremic syndrome due to contaminated meat especially during field dressing and transportation of harvested game. Therefore, public health awareness and continued study in enteric pathogen colonization in the Alaskan game is essential to provide a safe food source."

Leu Burke praised the research team’s efforts by stating, “I want to emphasize that the students involved submit their research under professional guidelines, not undergraduate, and therefore reach a high bar of excellence to be selected for poster presentation.” She said the virtual presentation went well with approximately 42 people in attendance. The MLS research team included the following students:  Samantha McLaren, Calvin Austin, and Kyle Yockey.