MLT As It Relates to Hepatitis
Feb 7, 2019
Today is World Hepatitis Day. And, because this disease often is diagnosed and dealt with by one of our Concorde careers â Medical Laboratory Technician â we thought weâd take a closer look at what hepatitis is and how it is dealt with by the medical lab technician.
We sought the expertise of Kevin McHugh, MSCLS, AHI(AMT)CCP, CLS(NCA), MLS(ASCP)CM, Medical Lab Technician Program Director at Concordeâs campus in Memphis, Tenn. to sort out the whats, wheres and whys of hepatitis. What it is, how itâs contracted, how itâs treated in the lab and how patients are treated.
What is hepatitis?
The truth about hepatitis lies within the word itself, McHugh said. The term âhepatitisâ refers more to a symptom of a bigger systemic issue rather than a disease itself. The word âhepaticâ means liver, and the suffix âitisâ means inflammation. Therefore, inflammation of the liver due to some pathologic condition is known as hepatitis.
We think of viral hepatitis when we think of hepatitis. It is a disease with an acute onset that can remain in a dormant stage in our bodies for decades.
âThere is a commercial on TV currently that states one in 30 baby boomers have Hep C and donât know it,â McHugh said. âIf this prevalence is correct, it is considerably significant.
âThis latent form of hepatitis has an asymptomatic presentation, which is why so many people have no idea they have contracted it until it starts to cause health problems. The disease can be quickly exacerbated with the use of alcohol and Acetaminophen.â
Symptoms of viral hepatitis, McHugh said, can be as benign as mild jaundice and dark urine. It can be as morbid as major, persistent abdominal pain. It also can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer which usually are terminal.
âThis type of hepatitis is caused by a virus and as such is transmitted through body fluids, especially blood via blood transfusions or IV drug use or sexually, which is why it remains renounced by society,â McHugh said.
The role of Medical Lab Technician in dealing with hepatitis
According to McHugh, there are five known types of viral hepatitis â A, B, C, D and E.
âOf main concern to us as laboratorians is Hep C or HCV,â he said. âHAV and HBV currently have vaccines and HDV and HEV are rare in industrialized countries. As laboratorians, we constantly are in contact with all types of body fluids, and Hep C can remain alive ex vivo for weeks on lab benches or counter tops.â
McHugh said the Medical Lab Technician uses âstandard precautionsâ in the lab, which means treating every specimen as if it is highly contagious. MLTs also wear personal protective equipment (PPE) which consists of gloves and lab coats. Itâs an ingrained piece of the lab assistant job description
âHowever,â he said, âHep C still remains our No. 1 concern, even over HIV/AIDS. Hep C is controllable with the use of interferon and protesase inhibitors, and some clinicians claim a cure, though that is largely unsubstantiated.â