Explore UAB

22368scr 6ed1c8875e46936Sixto Leal, Jr., M.D., Ph.D. (photo courtesy CAP Today)by Christina Crowe

Sixto Leal, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Laboratory Medicine, Director, clinical microbiology and Fungal Reference Lab and the SEBLAB biocontainment laboratory, is featured on the cover of the June 2023 issue of CAP Today, the monthly publication of the College of American Pathologists (CAP). CAP is the leading organization of board-certified pathologists, serving patients, pathologists, and the public by fostering and advocating excellence in the practice of pathology and laboratory medicine worldwide. 

The article discusses candida auris, a relatively new, multidrug-resistant yeast first identified in 2009 in an ear specimen, and reported in the United States in 2016.

"Like certain other pathogens, C. auris’ domestic presence appeared to be linked to travel-related cases, then quickly spread, first to the metropolitan regions of Chicago and New York City and now to more than half the states," the article explains

As the article notes, it continues to spread, although not as rapidly as first feared.

“It’s not as virulent as albicans,” says Leal in the article. “It’s about as virulent as Candida glabrata. It’s not too much of a significant threat if you’re healthy.”

He goes on to warn that for those with comorbidities, however, the infection could have a severe impact.

From the article: "This would include those in ICUs or in long-term care facilities, and patients who are connected to IV or urinary catheters, or who are ventilated, says Dr. Leal. Those who are getting sick from Candida auris often have multiple comorbidities and a high likelihood of prior exposure to antibacterial agents, he says, allowing room for nonbacteria to colonize and expand their population, providing a niche for the growth of C. auris.

The article can be read online here.

Leal has been lauded for his work during the COVID pandemic to design and implement a testing system to test multiple samples at once. He was named inaugural scientific director of the SEBLAB in March 2022. He has been awarded multiple grants for COVID-related research, including testing and mold infections. In 2021 Leal was named to The Pathologist magazine's Power List in recognition of the COVID-19 PCR test he and his team created in early March 2020, when no commercial systems were available. This test- one of the first in the nation to obtain emergency use authorization- exhibited the highest sensitivity in a nationwide FDA comparison study. It allowed UAB hospitals and regional hospitals in Alabama to reopen for regular care, and from March 17 to August, Leal's team was able to increase the rate of COVID-19 testing from 150 tests a day to more than 11,300 tests each day.

CAP is the organization providing accreditation for laboraties nationwide through its peer-inspection accreditation process, through which the UAB Pathology labs are accredited. Many UAB Pathology faculty are involved with the organization: Four UAB Pathology faculty were named to the CAP House of Delegates this spring--a three-year commitment. Diana Lin, Ph.D., assistant professor, Anatomic Pathology, was named a CAP Commissioner last year.