Lead Toxicologist, Academic
Poison Control Center, University of Campinas, BR
Leading up to this years’ Congress, we will hear from several of our colleagues from Brazil. This month we hear from Rafael Lanaro, from the Poison Control Centre of Campinas University. Campinas is a public research university in the state of São Paulo, consistently ranked among the top in Brazil and Latin America. The Poison’s Centre provides analytics services for emergencies to cover the metropolitan region of Campinas of 3 million (!) inhabitants. Rafael is an impressive Young Scientist, and his interview is the second in our series of Brazilian colleagues, following the December interview with congress co-chair Marina Venzon Antunes.
Can you tell us a little bit about your respective roles? What is a typical day like for you?
I work at the Poison Control Center of Campinas University and I’m responsible for toxicological analysis in emergencies that occur in the metropolitan region of Campinas (more than 3 million inhabitants). Additionally, my work involves the development of methods, and teaching graduate and post-graduate students.
Is there anything that is done at your centre that you would consider innovative?
In Brazil, the second most common intoxication cases are caused by poisonous animals (snakes, spiders and scorpions), and the Poison Control Center Laboratory is the only one in the region that carries out identification and quantification of these toxins through ELISA based methods.
What technological innovations have entered into use during your career that have permitted a change, or evolution, in practice?
When I started my career in this laboratory (12 years ago), routine work involved thin layer chromatography, GC-FID/ECD (manual injection and packed columns), spectrophotometry and color tests. Today, in the same laboratory, we work with GC-MS/MS, GC-HS-FID and LC-MS/MS systems, a newer, more modern spectrophotometer and ELISA reader, and immunoassays, that is to say all the methods have changed. Today results are obtained far more quickly, with improved quality, which is important in Emergency cases.
How did you become interested in your area of expertise?
During my University education in pharmacy we of course covered Toxicology. I was fascinated with the science, but was worried because in Brazil there were few professionals in this area, specifically in Clinical Toxicology. Following my graduation, I started a post-graduate program in Analytical Toxicology at the same laboratory where I am responsible today.
Is there anything that you’ve seen or heard about recently and thought “I’d like to incorporate that idea at my center”?
I have been following advances in DBS and DUS analyses, and would like to incorporate their application at our center, principally in cases involving newborns where sampling is an issue, and a challenge for everyone involved.
What sort of research do you have on the horizon that you think might influence clinical practice in the future?
We have had several fatal cases caused by cocaine overdoses, new psychoactive substances, and the herbicide paraquat: there is no available antidote for any of these scenarios. Some Brazilian researchers are working on nanotechnology based solutions, for example to create a cocaine antidote or other toxic compounds. This would be extremely useful in the Emergency Room. If this technology achieves a functional status, and is able to be used clinically to treat cases in these scenarios, it will be a new chapter in the practice of Clinical Toxicology.
What do you consider is the future for TDM and CT? What are you excited about? What are the challenges we face?
I believe that in the future different tests for evaluating individual patient responses in drug bioavailability will be integrated and accessible to the population. I’m excited that work in TDM and CT disciplines will never end!
The main challenge that I’ve seen in Brazilian TDM and CT is the lack of financial support from authorities, and extreme bureaucracy for simple things like the importation of reference materials, new equipment and parts for basic maintenance or repair.
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