University hosts emerging infectious diseases and biosecurity conference
20 May 2010
The latest research to combat emerging infectious diseases threatening Australia is being presented at the Sydney Emerging Infections and Biosecurity Institute Conference at the University of Sydney today.
The conference is the first event hosted by the newly-established Sydney Emerging Infections and Biosecurity Institute (SEIB), a major multi-disciplinary hub dedicated to research, advocacy and provision of expert advice on infectious diseases, with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region.
Under the leadership of its Director, Professor Tania Sorrell, the SEIB harnesses broad expertise in schools, faculties, disciplines and health facilities from across the University. The two branches of the Institute are based at the Camperdown and Westmead campuses.
The Sydney Medical School Dean, Professor Bruce Robinson, said the SEIB was the only Australian institution that encompassed both sciences and social sciences within a single institute devoted to emerging (and re-emerging) infectious diseases.
"Epidemic and emerging infectious diseases are common causes of severe illness and mortality worldwide," he said.
"Recent examples include AIDS, avian and H1N1 influenza, SARS, Hendra virus infection, and the increase in potentially untreatable diseases caused by bacteria and other organisms that are highly resistant to antibiotics, including TB.
"These diseases are a major cause of social disruption, especially in developing countries. They cost many billions of dollars to the world economy. For example, SARS is estimated to have cost US$30-40 billion to date; antibiotic resistant infections in the US alone costs $60 billion dollars per year; there are more than 33 million people living with AIDS and more than 25 million have died.
"More than 60 percent of emerging infectious diseases in the past decade have resulted from animal-human contact and of these, 70 percent are due to contact between humans and wildlife. Research and education in the behavioural (social) sciences are as important as the basic and health sciences in understanding how to contain and prevent outbreaks and antibiotic resistant infections."
SEIB Director, Professor Tania Sorrell said anticipating and controlling epidemics and emerging infectious diseases was a multidisciplinary problem that crossed both geographic and social boundaries.
"Australia's position as one of the few developed nations in the Asia-Pacific region provides us with a unique opportunity to lead in interdisciplinary research and capacity building and to collaborate with our neighbours in prevention, containment and eradication of emerging infectious diseases at home and abroad," she said.
"The recent visit to Indonesia by a large delegation from the University and the presence at this conference of senior colleagues from the Indonesian Ministry of Health and University of Indonesia, is testament to this spirit of collaboration and partnership."
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