The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital

31 May 2019

[email protected] welcome seminar

Austin Health’s Infectious Diseases Department was officially welcomed to the Doherty Institute with a seminar hosted by Doherty Institute Director Professor Sharon Lewin and Director of Austin Health’s Infectious Diseases Department Professor Lindsay Grayson.

The seminar aimed to showcase the infectious diseases and immunology research at Austin Health and Doherty Institute, strengthen existing collaborations, and foster new partnerships.

Dr Norelle Sherry, Austin Health Infectious Diseases Physician and Clinical Researcher at the Doherty Institute summarises the seminar, sharing her insights with us.

Buruli ulcer is a hot topic in Victoria at the moment so it was fitting that we heard from Infectious Diseases Deputy Director at Austin Health and Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Mycobacterium ulcerans at the Doherty Institute, Professor Paul Johnson, and the Doherty Institute’s Professor Tim Stinear and Dr Jane Oliver, presented an overview on the mapping Buruli ulcer in Victoria project.

Local data suggests mosquitoes are a vector and possums are a reservoir for the bacteria. As such, a world-first field intervention has been launched in collaboration with the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, examining the effects of mosquito control in a highly-endemic area.

Professor Ben Howden, Infectious Diseases Physician at Austin Health and Director of the Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory at the Doherty Institute, Director of Infection Control at Austin Health, Dr Jason Kwong, and myself spoke about new genomics initiatives being used to combat antimicrobial resistance.

Our research looks at applying genomics to detect transmission of multidrug-resistant organisms in hospital infection control, and using new genomics techniques (metagenomics) on complex patient samples to detect antimicrobial resistance genes.

In a session dedicated to drug allergy and transplant immunology, Director of Drug and Antibiotic Allergy Services at Austin Health, Dr Jason Trubiano, described the innovative multi-site Antibiotic Allergy Testing program, actively testing and de-labelling patients with antibiotic allergies to improve patient outcomes and antimicrobial stewardship. Techniques include the use of skin testing and ex vivo T-cell diagnostics to identify the culprit antibiotics causing allergic reactions.

Infectious Disease Physician at Austin Health and Early Career Research Fellow at the Doherty Institute, Dr Claire Gordon, discussed the important of resident memory T-cells, and the establishment of a new biobank of tissues from organ donors for T cell research, in partnership with the Mackay group at Doherty. 

The final session of the day examined how science can help inform Infection prevention and control, with Doherty Institute Postdoctoral fellow Dr Sacha Pidot presenting data about increasing tolerance of Enterococcus faecium to alcohol, possibly being driven by widespread use of alcohol-based handrubs, especially in hospitals.

Dr Glen Carter, a Senior Project Officer at the Doherty Institute, discussed increasing chlorhexidine tolerance in Staphylococcus aureus, potentially due to the widespread use of chlorhexidine in hospitals and the community, which may select for antibiotic resistance in staphylococci due to the presence of of multidrug-resistance plasmids.

Finally, Dr Kwong spoke again, highlighting infection control activities at the Austin, including multidrug-resistance screening, and opportunities for collaboration.

On behalf of Austin Health’s Infectious Disease Department, I’d like to thank the Doherty Institute for the incredibly warm welcome.

We look forward to strengthening our existing links and exploring new opportunities for collaboration in the future.

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