What's news 2014


ASM launched the Nancy Millis Mentoring Program

ASM has launched the Nancy Millis Mentoring Program during the first day of its Annual Scientific Meeting and Exhibition, held in Melbourne on 6-9 July. Professor Nancy Millis always took an interest in the work and activities of her colleagues and students, and was a great mentor to many. In honour of her long-term association with the ASM, a student mentoring program has been established in her name. Click on the link to listen to students impression about this program. http://www.asainc.net.au

-ASM website


Laboratory Diagnosis & Surveillance of Drug-resistant Infections



It was a full house at the symposium held on 20th June at Westmead Hospital Education and Conference Centre. This was a collaborative event with Centre for Infectious Diseases & Microbiology - Public Health and NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Critical Infection.

Receiving immensely positive feedback from attendees, it's aim was achieved - to critically review current approaches to epidemiology and laboratory diagnosis of antibiotic resistance in major pathogens of clinical and public health importance.

Photo: Presenters from left to right, A/Prof. Vitali Sintchenko, Prof. Tom Gottlieb, Prof. Tania Sorrell, Prof. Ben Howden, Ms Kaitlin Tagg, Prof. Iain Gosbell, Prof. Jon Iredell, Dr Andrew Ginn


Westmead Oscars

A wonderful night was had at the Westmead Oscars hosted by Mr Shaun Drummond and the Westmead Association. The oscars experience was complete with a red carpet welcome, golden statues, live music and lots of laughs.

A big thank you to Jack Taylor our intern from the University of California, Davis who did a spectacular job taking on this project and directing the short film which won the Infectious Diseases Department 2nd Place! We look forward to the next one.

05:00 minutes Download video (mp4, 190.45 Mb)

Australasian Medical Research Societies call for government action in strengthening childhood vaccination incentive programs

a doctor vaccinating a baby

Source: News Limited

The Australian Society for Microbiology along with The Australasian Virology Society and The Australian Society for Immunology (over 4000 clinicians and scientists collectively) have issued statements to the Abbot Government regarding the administration of the family tax benefit A supplement immunisation bonus.

Scientists have spoken out against the payment of this immunisation bonus (worth $2100) to parents refusing to vaccinate their children, in a recent story that has gained national media coverage.

- Daily Telegraph, read more

Respect Research Launched at Science Meets Parliament

The annual "Science meets Parliament” meeting was held on 17th and 18th of March 2014 at Canberra. As a member of Science and Technology Australia, the Australian Society for Microbiology sent two member representatives to attend this meeting – Dr Kathryn Holt (University of Melbourne), and Associate Professor Mike Manefield (UNSW). As a key outcome from this meeting, ASM is supporting the new Greens campaign to advocate for research funding: Respect Research

- The Australian Society for Microbiology, read more

$100 Million - Scholarship Fund

Westpac are awarding 100 scholarships a year forever – to back the next generation of Australia’s leaders. This is Australia’s largest ever private education scholarship fund.

Categories are relevant to undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as postdoctoral researchers.

- Read more

Black death

picture of skulls full of dirt

Photograph: Philip Toscano

Archaeologists and forensic scientists who have examined 25 skeletons unearthed in the Clerkenwell area of London a year ago believe they have uncovered the truth about the nature of the Black Death that ravaged Britain and Europe in the mid-14th century.

- Theguardian.com, read more


Respect Research

Respect Research

Governments repeatedly treat Australia’s research budget as a honeypot, which they dip into every time the budget is tight. This is short-sighted. Australia depends on research and research depends on solid, long-term public support. Please share this link with your friends and colleagues - let's make sure the Government hears our call loud and clear to respect research:
pledge your support

- The Australian Society for Microbiology, read more

Hospitals becoming safer, report finds

Going to hospital has become safer over the past few years, thanks to a declining rate of dangerous bacterial infections. The latest National Health Reporting Authority (NHPA) report shows the vast majority of hospitals are beating the government target for deadly Staphylococcus aureus infections commonly known as golden staph.

- Nine News, read more


Visiting A/Professor Yoav Golan

Dr Yoav Golan

Spoke at Westmead on Friday 28th regarding the current issues in treating the growing number of hospital-acquired Clostridium difficile infections.

He discussed the current treatment protocols, including the rates of recurrence with these treatments, and introduced a new, highly efficacious antibiotic with significantly reduced recurrence rates.

Dr Badrul Hasan

is a visiting researcher from the University of Uppsala, is investigating antibiotic resistance reservoirs in animals and birds with significant human contact.
Doctoral students Kaitlin Tagg and Alex Agyekum help him collect samples at Bondi Beach.

- Antimicrobial drug-resistant Escherichia coli in wild birds and free-range poultry, Bangladesh. Hasan, B, read article

Dr Basrul Hasan
Kaitlin Tagg
Alex Agyekum

World Encephalitis Day - 22nd February 2014

Big brain

A new Guinness World Record - University of Liverpool campus

Encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, is caused by several different infectious and noninfectious entities. Encephalitis can be an uncommon complication of a common infection, such as infection with a herpes virus or with any of several vaccine-preventable disease viruses, or a predictable presentation of a rare pathogen, such as the ameba, Naegleria fowleri - CDC.gov Read more

The international encephalitis consortium launched its

Also, check out some great work by Tom Solomon and colleagues from the
University of Liverpool


1,500-year-old plague victims shed light on disease origins

A plague victim

A plague victim's tooth from which DNA was extracted. Photograph: McMaster University, Canada

Scientists have sequenced the genome of the pathogen that caused one of the most devastating plagues in human history, shedding light on where the disease came from and how it spread.

Professor Edward Holmes, who is from the University of Sydney and one of the authors of the study, said it was the oldest pathogen ever sequenced.

"This is the first complete genome from one of the most significant disease events in human history," he said.

The results showed the strains from the plague victims were distinct from those involved in the Black Death, the later pandemic which killed an estimated 60% of the European population.

- Nick Evershed, Theguardian.com, read more


Nightlife - Wednesday 11th Dec

Listen to Prof. Jon Iredell and Prof. Liz Harry discuss antibiotic resistance on ABC radio program Nightlife with Tony Delroy.

Antibiotics have saved millions of lives since they became widely available in the 1940s, but their use-by date may be fast approaching. Antibiotic resistance is growing around the world as we prescribe them for ailments ranging from tuberculosis to an infected thumb.

Listen now

Opportunity for PhD Candidate


An opportunity exists for a PhD candidate to undertake work on the molecular epidemiology of Staphylococcus aureus infections in hospitals. Elements of the PhD project may include:
- Development of a rapid genotyping system, which will be used to rapidly detect transmission of S. aureus in the hospital setting.
- Performance of whole genome sequencing on selected isolates
- Analysis of results of whole genome sequencing to confirm chains of transmission
Experience and skills will be gained in molecular diagnostics of highly significant nosocomial pathogens, including next generation sequencing and bioinformatics analysis of whole genome sequencing data.

Professor Lyn Gilbert, Dr Matthew O’Sullivan

Research Location
Westmead - Sydney Emerging Infections and Biosecurity Institute

Program Type

For more details and how to apply

CDC Threat Report: ‘We Will Soon Be in a Post-Antibiotic Era'

CDC - Acinet


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just published a first-of-its-kind assessment of the threat the country faces from antibiotic-resistant organisms, ranking them by the number of illnesses and deaths they cause each year and outlining urgent steps that need to be taken to roll back the trend

- Maryn McKenna, Weird.com, read more


University of Sydney researchers to study evolution of the ancient plague

black death

The last rites

Eddie Holmes leads a team including Jon Iredell and Muhammad Kamruzzaman from the (CRE Critical Infection), and Hendrik Poinar, McMaster University to continue work on the evolutionary history of the ancient black death pathogen.

It has long been thought that the great plagues of mankind have modified human evolution but there is evidence that pathogens themselves adapt to optimally spread within a host population. The ancient Justinian plague and the Black Death of medieval times may be genetically different from modern Yersinia pestsis and the team’s overall objective is to understand the nature of virulence evolution through in-depth study of one of the most destructive pathogens in human history.

Analysis of ancient Y. pestis genomes will provide an unprecedented insight into pathogen evolution and a general perspective on the evolutionary pressures acting on emerging pathogens. Their study represents a powerful combination of expertise in comparative genomic analysis and virulence evolution (CIA-Holmes), aDNA (CIB-Poinar), and molecular genetic analyses of bacterial populations (CIC-Iredell).

21st Century Medicine

download powerpoint slides

Download Jon Iredell's slides

Preventing the superbug apocalypse Listen to the talk

A/Prof. Tom Gottlieb and Prof. Jon Iredell were invited by the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity to give lectures concerning the ever growing threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Antibiotics were introduced into society during the '40s and '50s and were believed to be, at the time, the end of bacterial infections forever. However, antibiotic resistant bacteria were identified as early as the 1960s. Despite this concern, antibiotic usage soared exponentially, and globally, revolutionising modern medicine.

Now, after a twenty year gap in the development of new antibiotics, coupled with some of the highest rates of antibiotic usage the world has seen, there is now resistance to every class of antibiotic in use, and a variety of antibiotic resistant organisms are responsible. These organisms are rapidly becoming a major health concern, both within hospitals and throughout the community. A/Prof. Gottlieb and Prof. Iredell have summarised for us in their lectures, the background, the current situation, and the future of antibiotic resistance as a global health concern.

- Jack Taylor


Preventing the superbug apocalypse


Antibiotic control and antibiotic resistance needs to be as high a priority as regulating tobacco and managing global warming, according to an infectious disease expert. With the rise of antibiotic resistance comes a reminder to all doctors to be extra vigilant around patients in nursing homes or return travellers who have been hospitalised overseas and showing symptoms of urinary tract or bloodstream infection.

Professor Jon Iredell, director of infectious diseases at Westmead Hospital, Sydney, said these patients were likely to be harbouring gram-negative bacteria that are not only easily spread but also particularly antibiotic resistant.
"I think travel history is something that is commonly neglected," he said. "Travel history is not just about malaria, it's about antibiotic resistance as well."

- Amanda Davey, 6minutes Read more

Bacterial sex, antibiotics & superbugs

Radius Magazine

Download Radius

Antibiotic control and antibiotic resistance needs to be up there with tobacco control and smoking according to Professor Jon Iredell, director of infectious diseases and microbiology at Westmead.

It's not that Iredell doesn't appreciate the life-saving drugs that revolutionised the medicine in the 20th century. it's just that he knows the dark side: the proliferation of 'superugs', a convenient catch-all term for those bacteria which are most dangerous (most 'virulent') and are most able to defeat antibiotics (most 'resistant').

- Radius Magazine, cover story, October 2013

"Who’s Afraid of Peer Review?"


Read article

A spoof paper concocted by Science reveals little or no scrutiny at many open-access journals.

This paper looks at the problems of online publication. Free access doesn't equate to free publication and a lack of proper peer review prior to publication could make or break an author's scientific career.

While the ideals behind open-access are not at fault, the basic question still comes down to how to achieve this. Many of the journals were found to not be subject to peer review and to be purely a money gathering enterprise - driven by publication fees paid by the authors - and not the quality of the papers accepted for publication.

- John Clancy, Dept Medical Entomology; CIDMLS

Surgery could soon become deadly

Superbugs could soon make routine surgical procedures deadly for healthy people if authorities do not start introducing measures to tackle them, doctors say.

The warning comes as England's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, called for worldwide action to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria that she said posed a ''catastrophic threat'' to human health that should be likened to terrorism.

In submissions to a current Australian Senate inquiry into the problem, microbiologists and infectious disease experts called for better cleaning of hospitals and more testing of animals and food.

- Julia Medew, Health Editor, The Age Read more

Dengue researchers take top Australian Eureka science prize

Australia's national science awards, the Eureka Prizes are presented annually by the Australian Museum, and this year, scientists who've developed a way to prevent the spread of the deadly dengue fever have taken out one of the top prizes.

It's hoped the breakthrough will help the two and a half billion people around the world who are vulnerable to dengue fever.

- ABC Radio, Presenter: Campbell Cooney, Speaker: Science and technology correspondent Jake Sturmer Listen

21st Century Medicine Program

October 16, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Sydney Room
Level 10, 201 Sussex Street, Sydney

The 21st Century Medicine Program has invited Professor Jon Iredell to give a lecture concerning the emerging issue of anti-bacterial resistant, Gram-negative bacteria. This group of less well-known bacterial menaces is the focus of a great deal of research. Jon Iredell, director of Infectious Diseases at Westmead Hospital and Professor at Sydney Medical School, is currently leading a team of researchers to answer pressing questions, such as how to quickly and correctly identify anti-bacterial resistant infections, how to treat such infections, and where the infections are coming from. Join us at the posted date and address to gain insight into these growing concerns of the medical system, and the incredible research that is currently underway.

- Jack Taylor More information