In this issue


Microbiology Australia Microbiology Australia
Issue 1

Steadying the ship

The last nine months have been an interesting and challenging time for the Executive of the ASM. I am taking this opportunity to describe the problems and what we are proposing to do about them, and have done so far. You may know that we have had a series of resignations from the office staff: our Conference Manager in May, our Office Manager in August and our Events Manager in November. At this time the ASM is no longer an employer. We have had to consider a number of things as these resignations have accumulated. You’d be aware already that w...

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Influenza – our constant companion

On 11 June 2009, Dr Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, announced to the world that following the emergence of a novel influenza A virus in late April 2009 and its extensive spread that, “I have therefore decided to raise the level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 5 to phase 6. The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic.” Dr Chan also commented, “No previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely, in real-time, right at the very beginning. The world can now reap the be...

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Swine flu – lessons we need to learn

Important lessons need to be learnt from the recent swine flu pandemic. Overall the population health effects of swine flu were less than a moderately severe seasonal influenza outbreak. A pandemic should not be declared unless we have both the spread of the virus but also when its virulence is above a predefined level. We need to ensure that we improve techniques to decrease the spread of infection both in the community and within our hospitals. This means improved infection control and hygiene with the use of masks, alcohol hand rubs and so o...

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Laboratory diagnosis of influenza and the impact of the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus

Aetiological confirmation of respiratory tract infections in patients facilitates appropriate antimicrobial use and infection control procedures. From a public health perspective, the laboratory confirmation of influenza allows assessment of circulating viruses, community attack rates and the efficacy of vaccination programs, while assisting modelling as part of pandemic preparedness planning. Rapid antigen and immunofluorescent antigen tests are relatively insensitive in detecting pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza compared to seasonal subtypes, a...

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Development and testing of the Australian pandemic influenza vaccine – a timely response

In April 2009 a novel virus strain appeared which would cause the first influenza pandemic of the 21st century. This pandemic was the first to occur in an era where bioinformatic technologies contributed to the response to this virus; still, the creation of a vaccine relied largely on existing egg-based technology. The ongoing threat of a H5N1 pandemic spurred the development of strategies to rapidly produce a pandemic vaccine. These plans were implemented and allowed CSL and Australia to conduct the first clinical trials and produce one of the...

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How did the 2009 pandemic compare with previous pandemics?

The pandemic spread of the novel H1N1 virus in 2009 was unusual in that the attack rates and mortality rates were often lower than in earlier pandemics. However, most affected populations reported that morbidity and mortality were greater in younger adults than in children or older persons, reproducing the age distribution of earlier pandemics. A small proportion of affected persons became so ill that they required intensive care or died. Aboriginality, pregnancy and obesity were risk factors for severe disease, but many patients requiring inte...

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What serosurveillance studies tell us about the 2009 influenza pandemic

Surveillance of the impact of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza during its initial seasons in both hemispheres relied on routinely available indicators, including numbers and rates of laboratory-detected cases, hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths, along with monitoring of influenza-like illness (ILI) from primary care sentinel surveillance systems. Estimates of the clinical attack rate and the case fatality ratio were imperfect. Understanding of the pathogenicity of the pandemic virus and prediction of the impact in subsequent seasons was ...

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T-cell immunity against the A(H1N1) 2009 pandemic virus

The sudden emergence of the novel reassortant A(H1N1) 2009 influenza virus led to rapid global spread, due to minimal pre-existing antibody levels in those born after 1950. Memory T cells specific for more conserved viral peptides elicit broad immunity and can promote more rapid recovery. However, mutations within T-cell immunogenic peptides occur, although less commonly than at antibody-binding sites. Comparison of human T-cell peptides between the pandemic H1N1 2009 and seasonal strains showed 50–70% conservation, depending on the particular ...

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Antiviral drug resistance in seasonal and pandemic influenza

Two classes of anti-influenza drugs are currently available for the treatment or prophylaxis of influenza. These are the adamantanes (amantadine and rimantadine), which block the activity of the M2 ion channel of influenza A viruses (but not influenza B viruses), and the neuraminidase inhibitors (NAIs), which act by binding to the enzymatic site of the influenza neuraminidase (NA) thereby preventing progeny virions from being released from the host cell during viral replication. Antiviral resistance can occur in influenza viruses and render the...

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Clinical impact of influenza – lessons learnt from the pandemic influenza A (H1N1) 2009

Influenza is generally an acute, self-limiting, febrile illness without further complications in the majority of people. However, it can be associated with severe morbidity and mortality and the burden of the disease on society is likely to be underestimated. In 2009 an outbreak of H1N1 influenza A virus infection was detected in Mexico with further cases soon observed worldwide. Subsequently, in June 2009, the first influenza pandemic of the 21st century due to influenza A (H1N1) was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO). There were ...

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A universal influenza vaccine – are we almost there?

Seasonal influenza has a significant health care and economic impact and pandemic influenza is believed to have the potential to result in a global catastrophe. Regardless of developments with antivirals, vaccination remains the most effective option for limiting the impact of both seasonal and pandemic influenza.

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H1N1 2009 pandemic influenza in Indigenous Australians

Given the known prevalence of chronic disease in the Australian Indigenous population, and the known risk factors for severe disease from influenza infection, it is not surprising that Indigenous Australians carried a higher burden of disease during the influenza pandemic of 2009. However, other determinants apart from comorbidities might also have affected influenza morbidity in Indigenous Australia. Factors such as overcrowding, sanitation infrastructure, remoteness, access to health care and availability of the specific hardware of the pande...

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Pandemic H1N1 2009 influenza in pigs in Australia

The novel H1N1 2009 virus that is the cause of the most recent human influenza pandemic is able to infect a number of animal hosts, most notably reported in domesticated swine. The first confirmed 2009 pandemic H1N1 (H1N1pdm) influenza infection of a commercial swine herd occurred in Alberta, Canada in late April 2009. The early incidences of H1N1pdm influenza in swine were of great concern to public and animal health agencies alike, and numerous subsequent cases were reported to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) by different count...

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An update of H5N1 viruses: Are they still a threat to Australia?

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 viruses are now endemic in poultry over much of Asia and in areas of Africa. The continued presence of the virus has led to repeated outbreaks in poultry, with associated economic losses, and also to increased cases of human infection. In this article we summarise the continuing evolution and activity of these H5N1 viruses.

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Reflections on the 2007 equine influenza outbreak

In late August 2007, Australia experienced its largest animal disease emergency with an outbreak of equine influenza (EI). This followed the importation of one or more infected horses and the entry of the virus into the Australian horse population. There are a number of aspects of this event that are not only applicable to the diagnosis and control of other high-consequence animal diseases but there are also many elements of interest and relevance to public health. In particular, there were interesting insights into the speed and manner of viru...

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Influenza surveillance in wild birds in Australia

Wild aquatic birds are the natural reservoir for avian influenza viruses (AIVs)1. Increased surveillance has revealed that Australia has its own lineages of these AIVs.

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