What's news 2014


Australia well prepared to deal with Ebola virus

Sydney's Westmead Hospital has been conducting drills to prepare for a potential outbreak of Ebola, while the nation's health departments say they are well equipped to deal with possible cases of the deadly virus.

The federal health department says the risk of an outbreak in Australia remains very low, and "our infection control mechanisms in hospitals are first rate".
-SMH read more

The Ebola virus - an overview

Norman Swan talks with infectious disease expert Professor Edward Holmes about the Ebola virus. What is it actually, where did it really come from, how fast is it evolving during this current epidemic and is a vaccine possible?
-ABC to listen to the interview

Scientists Rein In Fears of Ebola, a Virus Whose Mysteries Tend to Invite Speculation

News that a nurse in full protective gear had become infected with the Ebola virus raised some disturbing questions on Monday. Has the virus evolved into some kind of super-pathogen? Might it mutate into something even more terrifying in the months to come?

Evolutionary biologists who study viruses generally agree on the answers to those two questions: no, and probably not.

-The New York Times read more

How you can and can't get Ebola

As Ebola spreads from West Africa to isolated cases in Europe and the United States, so too do rumours and myths about how the disease is transmitted - many of them perpetuated on social media.

Here are the facts about how Ebola spreads, as outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other official bodies.

-ABC News read more

Ebola infection of US nurse raises concerns about controls

The Ebola infection of a Texas nurse caring for an infected man who later died raises serious concerns about the effectiveness of infection controls and whether the current procedures in Australia are adequate.
-ABC News read more


'Sex SUPERBUG' found in Australia: Experts warn about powerful new strain of gonorrhea - which can't be treated with regular STI drugs

Concerns are mounting over a powerful new form of gonorrhea after a patient was found to have the highest level of drug resistance to the disease ever reported in Australia.

It is understood the patient, a tourist from central Europe, contracted the 'sex superbug' in Sydney and was eventually treated in Cairns.

The discovery of the case in Australia, which resulted in a health alert in July, has also prompted warnings in New Zealand, where sexual health clinics are on high alert amid fears the new strain will spread there.

-Daily Mail, Australia read more

Jump in antibiotic resistance could leave GPs with fewer drug options, researchers warn

The latest jump in antibiotic resistance across Australia could leave doctors with fewer treatment options, researchers have warned.

More people may also end up requiring hospital treatment as a result, experts at Adelaide University said.

Team leader Professor John Turnidge said Australians had developed a culture of entitlement over the past half century about being prescribed antibiotics, often when there was little or no likelihood the drugs would cure an ailment.

A national study carried out by Professor Turnidge and his team has confirmed antibiotic-resistant strains of disease-causing bacteria, such as E.coli, are rising steadily.
- ABC News, read more



Presentation by Professor Ed Breitschwerdt

Bartonellosis is a zoonotic infectious disease of worldwide distribution, caused by an expanding number of recently discovered Bartonella species. Bartonella spp. are transmitted by several arthropod vectors, including fleas, lice, sand flies and ticks. Prior to 1990, there was only one named Bartonella species (B. bacilliformis), whereas there are now over 30 species, of which 17 have been associated with an expanding spectrum of animal and human diseases.

In Professor Ed Breitschwerdt’s first lecture in Australia, find out how advances in diagnostic techniques have facilitated documentation of chronic bloodstream infections with Bartonella species in healthy and sick animals, and in immunocompetent and immunocompromised human patients.

The field of Bartonella research remains in its infancy and is rich in questions, for which patient-relevant answers are badly needed. Hear how directed Bartonella research could substantially reduce animal and human suffering, which is seemingly associated with chronic debilitating disease processes. Professor Ed Breitschwerdt will emphasise the medical importance of Bartonella species as a cause of disease in animals and human patients and the benefits of using a One Health approach to this emerging infectious disease.

- Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity

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. To listen to students impression about this program click here.

-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