Intensive look at infectious diseases

11 April 2011

Associate Professor Jon Iredell: "The critically ill are the most vulnerable people in our health system."
Associate Professor Jon Iredell: "The critically ill are the most vulnerable people in our health system."

Infectious diseases that can be found in hospital intensive care units will be the focus of a new Centre of Research Excellence, launched recently by the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, the Hon Mark Butler.

Medical researchers at the University of Sydney's Westmead Millennium Institute were awarded a $2.5m National Health and Medical Research Council grant to establish a Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) in Critical Infectious Diseases at Westmead.

The internationally recognised team, led by the University of Sydney's Associate Professor Jon Iredell, has a distinguished track record for its pioneering work in infectious diseases.

Associate Professor Jon Iredell says the team will investigate life threatening infections such as septic shock, severe pneumonia and encephalitis. The group will also study the ecology of major infections, including antibiotic resistance infections and the ethical and legal issues associated with diseases affecting the most seriously ill.

"The critically ill are the most vulnerable people in our health system and their care is highly resource intensive," says Iredell.

'Most admissions to intensive care units are precipitated or complicated by infection, which is the commonest cause of preventable mortality and adds billions of dollars to the annual cost of health care.

"What is important now is discovering which patients admitted to intensive care units are at highest risk and delivering this critical information early.

"Our aim is to help Intensive care specialists in making decisions by developing rapid diagnostic tests and assist in improved infection management and control strategies that can bring benefits to both the patients and the hospital system."

The five-year project is based primarily at the Westmead Millennium Institute, University of Sydney and Westmead Hospital, and linked to networks of researchers in intensive care and infectious diseases around Australia.

Researchers will work closely with the new Sydney Emerging Infections and Biosecurity Institute, which is focused on improved detection and management of infectious diseases in Australia and South East Asia.

"This project will improve health outcomes for critically ill people," said the Dean of Sydney Medical School, Professor Bruce Robinson.

"Within the University of Sydney, Westmead Millennium Institute and Westmead Hospital, we have a brilliant team of researchers and clinicians working in the area of critical infectious diseases. The work Professor Iredell and others do through this project will lead directly to better health care systems, better patient safety and better management of these critical infections."

Interview contact: Associate Professor Jon Iredell, 0419 751 659

Media enquiries: Victoria Hollick, 0401 711 361, 9351 2579,

Kath Kenny, 0478 303 173, 9351 1584,