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Critical Infection

Improving diagnosis and treament
We aim to improve healthcare systems, patient safety and management of critical infections. We integrate innovative clinical, scientific and biotechnological solutions for diagnosis, surveillance and management.

About us

The critically ill are the most vulnerable people in our health system and their care is highly resource intensive. Most admissions to intensive care units are precipitated or complicated by infection, which is the most common cause of preventable mortality and adds billions of dollars to the annual cost of health care. 

We work on severe infections in the critically ill, and the ecology and genetics of antibiotic resistance. We're developing tools for real-time diagnosis, tracking of specific pathogens, and developing next-generation informatics to tailor prescribing for individuals, improve hospital infection control and track outbreaks of highly transmissible or antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

We are finding new ways to manage major infection risk by selective modification of human bacterial ecosystems. We're also committed to translating our research into effective practice and policy. 

We're based at the Westmead Millenium Institute for Medical Research.

Highlights

  • A world first trial is underway in Sydney which could hold the key to tackling antibiotic resistant superbugs
    Researchers at Westmead Hospital have developed a new way to use viruses to treat potentially deadly bacterial infections - Nina Stevens, Channel 7, Watch now
  • Australian Society for Microbiology annual scientific meeting in Queensland
    Presenter: Alma Wu is a first-year PhD student at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research
    Poster title: Functional diversity of toxin-antitoxin systems in antibiotic resistance plasmids in enterobacteriaceae
  • Sydney Health Partners website launched
    This an important first step in telling the story of Sydney Health Partners to the wider community, and demonstrating how our partnership brings together world leading researchers and clinicians to transform the way research improves the health of our patients and communities.

Our research

Infectious diseases are a leading cause of death worldwide with new infectious agents emerging each year. Our researchers seek to understand the body’s immune responses to infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. The study of infectious diseases and immunology at the Sydney Medical School covers laboratory, clinic and population studies, and involves all organ systems and crosses all medical specialties.

Research projects

GNT 1145914 Plasmid specialisation modules, microbial husbandry and microbiome resilience

Two bacterial species E. coli and K. pneumoniae are most responsible for septic shock, acquire antimicrobial resistance (AMR) via a mobile gene pool. The most important vectors of this AMR are self-transmissible (conjugative) plasmids. Specific genetic modules (addiction systems, replicons, entry exclusion systems etc.) on plasmids seem to be primary determinants of plasmid-plasmid/plasmid-host relationships and in AMR epidemiology. We have shown for the first time that a bacterial population can be restored to an antibiotic susceptible state in vivo by manipulating addiction and replication modules of specific AMR plasmids (PLoS One 2017 12:e0172913). Here we examine the impact of these modules on AMR plasmid epidemiology and their capacity for manipulation to protect the microbiome from invasive plasmids.

Research team
GNT1107322 Eradication of high-risk bacterial clones using bacteriophages

Nature offers remedies to the spread of dangerous antibiotic resistant bacteria in the form of predatory viruses (bacteriophages). In this project, we will define optimal mixtures of these for killing problem bacterial types, the mechanisms by which bacterial resistance develops, the best approach to identifying susceptible bacteria and to using these viruses to eradicate them, and we will test a carefully optimised bacteriophage therapy in humans colonised by the dangerous E. coli ST131 strain.

Research team

Treatment of severe Staphylococcus aureus infections with bacteriophage therapy

This is an investigator-led research project sanctioned by FDA, TGA and Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) HREC to investigate phage and bacterial kinetics as well as the possibility of beneficial clinical outcomes of phage therapy. This is a collaborative project between WSLHD, Westmead Institute for Medical Research and AmpliPhi BioSciences led by Prof Jon Iredell and managed by A/P Ruby Lin. The treatment plan is in conjunction with the prescribed antibiotics treatment regime, involving intravenous bacteriophage (AB-SA01) administration for 14 days, with 90 days follow-up for patients with severe S. aureus infections. Data (such as markers of inflammation) are prospectively collected starting with patient’s admission and consent. Patients are offered therapy before in vitro susceptibility data is known if the treating physicians believe the delay is not in the patient’s interests. The aim is to test whether AB-SA01 is safe and well tolerated when administered via intravenous infection in critically ill patients with staphylococcal infection. We also aim to address whether staphylococcal bacteraemic burden declines after bacteriophage administration.


Research team:

GNT1127292 Antibiotic resistance and the ecological effects of selective decontamination of the digestive tract in Intensive Care Units

We will study patients within a large trial of gut decontamination, in which antibiotics are given in advance to reduce the risk of infection. Specifically, we will determine whether there is any increased antibiotic resistance and even biodiversity loss, as some fear. This is a one-off chance to provide essential data that can help us design better national policies for antibiotic resistance control and a true personalised medicine approach to resistance and infection in ICU.

Study options

The University offers a range of research opportunites to help you pursue your passion. Research in the discipline covers laboratory, clinic and population studies; it involves all organ systems and crosses all medical specialties. You can undertake a:

You can view a full list of research projects in critical infection by visiting Research Supervisor Connect at the University of Sydney.

To learn more about research opportunities in the Faculty of Medicine and Health visit our postgraduate research page.

We welcome applications from postdoctoral research candidates. Candidates need to have excellent English skills and a strong research background relevant to one or more of our current research projects.

Please email critical.infection@sydney.edu.au with your:

  • CV
  • referee list
  • research outline.

This information will help us to try and link you with suitable research groups.

View more current research opportunities or learn more about postgraduate research in the Faculty of Medicine and Health.

Professional development and short courses

Established in 2012, we offer an annual short course for specialists in medicine, nursing and pharmacy. This two-day event allows medical professionals to be part of case discussions and provides an update on all things relevant to severe and life-threatening infection.

In 2019, the short ourse will be held on 5 -6 September in Brisbane. 

View the 2019 event flyer (PDF, 289KB)

Event registration will open soon, please click here.

View our 2018 short course program (PDF, 648 KB)

For more information on professional development and short courses in medicine and health please visit the Sydney Medical School short courses section.

We will release more information about this event in the coming months.

View the 2018 meeting program here (PDF, 2.9MB)

Research Group Leader

Jonathan Iredell
Professor Jonathan Iredell
View academic profile

Contact us

Address
  • Level 4, Westmead Millennium Institute, 176 Hawkesbury Road, Westmead NSW 2145