Monday, December 10, 2018

Case of the Week 522

This week's case features a whole slide image (WSI) of an H&E-stained section from a bladder resection. You can access the WSI HERE. Like the other WSIs that I've features on my blog, you don't need any special software or a log-in username to access the image. You can easily use the track ball on your mouse to zoom in and out. If using a smart phone or tablet, you can pinch in or out to zoom. Enjoy! (P.S. there are 2 things of interest on this slide).

Monday, December 3, 2018

Case of the Week 521

This month's case from Idzi Potters and the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, features a stool specimen from a traveler returning from Iran. No clinical data is available, nor any additional lab-results. The following photos show structures that were found in the patient’s stools. The average size of these objects is 42 x 25 µm. Click on the images to enlarge.

What is the diagnosis (& possible clinical relevance)?

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Answer to Case 521

Answer: Dicrocoelium dendricitum eggs

This is relatively rare find in human stool specimens. The eggs are small (35-45 µm long by 20-30 µm wide), thick-walled, and often brown due to bile staining. They are shed in a fully embryonated state, with the embryo often easily seen within the egg (these look like a skull to me!)
D. dendricitum is such a fascinating parasite. Its life cycle typically involves as ruminant, a snail and an ant. The whole life cycle is nicely illustrated by the CDC DPDx group HERE. Here is the accompanying text: 
Ruminants are the usual definitive hosts for Dicrocoelium dendricitum, although other herbivorous animals, carnivores, and humans can serve as definitive hosts. Embryonated eggs are shed in feces. The eggs are ingested by a snail. Many species of snail may serve as the first intermediate host, including Zebrina spp. and Cionella spp. When the miracidia hatch, they migrate through the gut wall and settle into the adjacent vascular connective tissue, where they become mother sporocysts. The sporocysts migrate to the digestive gland where they give rise to several daughter sporocysts. Inside each daughter sporocyst, cercariae are produced. The cercariae migrate to the respiration chamber where they are shed in slime ball from the snail. After a slime ball is ingested by an ant, the cercariae become free in the intestine and migrate to the hemocoel where they become metacercariae. Many ants may serve as the second intermediate host, especially members of the genus, Formica. After an ant is eaten by the definitive host, the metacercariae excyst in the small intestine. The worms migrate to the bile duct where they mature into adults. Humans can serve as definitive hosts after accidentally ingesting infected ants.

What this nice narrative does not mention are the following fun facts:
1. While in the ant intermediate host, the parasite takes control of the ant's nervous system and controls its actions. It directs the ant to climb to the top of a blade of grass every night and clamp down tightly to the blade with its mandibles. At dawn, the ant goes back to its normal activity in its colony. The recurs night after night, with the poor parasitized ant residing on the blade of grass until it is eaten by the grazing definitive host! What a clever way for a parasite to ensure the continuation of its own life cycle. This story reminds me of the effect that Toxoplasma gondii has on its rodent host (a story for another day).
2. As Old One reminded us, "D.d is beautiful critter. So flat you can clearly see all it's major organ systems without the benefit of stains. So thin it is commonly called the Lancet fluke. These dimensions allow D.d to dwell within the biliary ducts where they can allow normal bile flow in small numbers or block the flow with greater numbers."  For this reason, the fluke is less likely to cause symptoms in its host.
3. When humans serve as the definitive host for D. dendricitum, eggs of the parasite may be seen in the stool. However, eggs may also be seen in the stool when humans inadvertently eat the infected liver of another definitive host such as a cow; in this scenario, the presence of eggs would be considered spurious passage or 'pseudo-parasitism'.

This brings us to the question that Idzi posed to us: What is the possible clinical relevance of finding these eggs in a human stool specimen? Luis and Nema both pointed out that it is necessary to rule out spurious egg passage due to ingestion of infected liver. To accomplish this Nema suggested collecting repeat stool specimens (instructing the patient not to eat any more liver!) If follow-up specimens are negative, then this would provide evidence that the patient was not actually parasitized. A related note is that liver ingestion is not common in many parts of the world, so getting a good dietary history (including possible ingestion of ants!) is very helpful.

I'll now leave you with a lovely story from Blaine:
So, there is this old story, or so I am told, about ants getting ready for the winter. They gathered up food stores all day, including slime balls produced by snails. Then along came a lazy grasshopper, which had spent the summer playing and not preparing for the winter. When the winter came, the grasshopper begged the ants for something to eat, even a slime ball!!! The ants refused. In the Spring, the ants had an insatiable urge to climb to the tops of blades of grass and ended up getting eaten by cattle and sheep! The grasshopper did not get eaten by the livestock. The moral of this story? Play all day and you are guaranteed not to become cow chow! 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Case of the Week 520

This week's case is a small "worm" submitted for identification following removal during screening colonoscopy. It was tan-white and measured approximately 1.3 cm in length. The following are photos of its microscopic appearance:


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Answer to Case 520

Answer: Adult hookworm, Necator americanus
The hookworms are easily recognized by their piercing mouth parts - used for attaching to the small intestinal wall and drawing blood from the host. N. americanus has cutting plates, while Ancylostoma duodenale has sharp pointed teeth.
Thanks to all who wrote in with the great comments and ancient Chinese wisdom!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Case of the Week 519

Happy Thanksgiving day to my American friends! Here's a question for your consideration: which parasites can you get from eating undercooked turkey (the centerpiece of the classic Thanksgiving day feast)? Here is one of them in a squash preparation of a brain biopsy. What is it?
Giemsa, 100x objective with oil
 Transmission electron microscopy:

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Answer to Case 519

Answer: Tachyzoites of Toxoplasma gondii. 

My accompanying request was to list other parasites that can be acquired from eating (undercooked) turkey. The two excellent responses I received from Bernardino Rocha were Gnathostoma spp. (likely, but we're not sure), and Trichinella pseudospiralis. Did we miss anything? Please write in if you can think of others.

Now, a few fun facts for the curious:
The tachyzoites are the rapidly-dividing form of T. gondii [tachy is from the ancient Greek ταχύς (takhús, “swift”)], and are the predominant form seen in acute and re-activated infections. In this case, the presence of numerous extracellular forms is evidence of an active infection. In contrast, tissue cysts containing bradyzoites, the slowly-replicating forms [brady is from the ancient Greek βραδύς (bradús, “slow”)] are seen during latent infection. The word zoite derives from the ancient Greek ζῷον (zôion, "animal"). I always make sure to point out word origins to my students when they are useful for remembering parasite names. For example, most medical students know the difference between tachycardia and bradycardia, and know to think of a 'zoo' as a place where animals are found. Helping them apply the knowledge they already have helps them learn these new, and often very foreign-sounding words.

T. gondii can infect any nucleated cell and tachyzoites are commonly seen within host cells during active infection. In this case, we can see both free and intracellular tachyzoites:

For those of you who like etymology, you may also be interested to know that the word Toxoplasma comes from the ancient Greek words τόξον (tóxon, "bow" or "arc") and  πλάσμα (plásma, “something molded”); thus the name nicely describes arc-shaped form of this parasite. I love when parasite names actually make sense!  You can especially appreciate this shape in air-dried touch preparations. Disappointingly, the arc shape is only rarely seen in sections of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue, since the parasites tend to shrink and round up during fixation, taking on a more ovoid appearance. This makes it much trickier to differentiate them from small yeasts such as Histoplasma capsulatum and the amastigotes of Trypanosoma cruzi and Leishmania spp.

Transmission electron microscopy allows us to take a closer look at the T. gondii tachyzoites. As mentioned by Bernardino, the apical complex containing conoids and rhoptries is nicely seen:
HERE is an open access book chapter by the Global Water Pathogen Project that contains a reprint of the classic Dubey et al. 1998 figure showing the major structures of T. gondii tachyzoites and bradyzoites. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Case of the Week 518

This week's case is a bit of a puzzle for you to put together. The following object was seen in a urine sediment. It was initially moving, but very quickly died. It measures approximately 130 micrometers in length.
Wet prep, 10x objective
 Wet prep, 40x objective

Identification? Images are by one of our Clinical Microbiology fellows, Dr. Sarah Jung.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Answer to Case 518

Answer: Schistosoma haematobium miracidium, newly hatched with egg remnant.

This really neat photo, captured by our clinical microbiology fellow, Dr. Sarah Jung, nicely captured the miracidium right after it had exited the egg - AND - the egg remnant is still recognizable by its characteristic terminal spine. Great job Sarah!
I've tried to the best of my ability to label all of the components of the miracidium:
We rarely get to see these in the lab - although there is a hatching test you can try if you'd interested - and so it was a real treat to see the newly-hatched form of this parasite. Sarah mentioned that this was the best type of call to get called in from home for.

If you haven't already, I encourage you to go back and read the comments on this case - they are very interesting. I am so fortunate to have such a knowledgeable group of contributors who are always willing to share information and answer each other's questions. The comments also included a poem from Blaine which I will share here:
Humpty Haematobium sat on a wall
Humpty Haematobium had good fall
All the King's horses
and all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty Haematobium back together again!

Excellent as always Blaine! Sarah and my lab staff have just a slight modification to your poem:

Humpty Haematobium sat in some pee
Humpty Haematobium yearned to be free
All of my fellows
Both women and men
Couldn't put Humpty together again!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Case of the Week 517

Case of the Week 513
This week features our monthly case from Idzi Potters and the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp.

A 45-year-old female patient, suspected of having an infection with Strongyloides stercoralis, provided a stool specimen for Baermann concentration. The following structure was found, measuring about 300 µm in extended state. Diagnosis please.