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Microbiology Australia Microbiology Australia
Issue 4

Vertical Transmission, September 2009

Our 50th anniversary national meeting in Perth has now been and gone. I think everyone agrees it was an outstanding success. Thanks to all those who helped make it happen, most notably Rod Bowman and the rest of the Perth LOC and Janette Sofronidis and the other national office staff. All of the international speakers had a great time and several expressed a desire to return to Australia soon. Several US speakers have key roles in the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and we took the opportunity to discuss matters of mutual interest, incl...

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Emerging Infectious Disease

The term ‘emerging diseases’ has become synonymous with new, previously unknown infectious agents, or with known infectious agents which are either spreading geographically or increasing in incidence. An analysis by Jones et al (2008) showed that since 1940 there has been a steady increase in new diseases, and new diseases are continuing to emerge today. Most of these new diseases are of minor importance with respect to human or animal health, but occasionally important, highly pathogenic diseases arise, such as we have seen in recent years wit...

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‘Dengue: Australia’s other pandemic’

Pandemic dengue arrived in Australia in 2008-09. A large epidemic of Dengue Virus 3 (DENV-3) affected much of north Queensland, with over 900 cases and one death, in Cairns. This was accompanied by 18 imported viremic dengue cases into north Queensland from January to May 2009 and outbreaks of DENV-1, -2 and -4 in Townsville, Cairns and Innisfail, respectively. The virus was unique, with apparently shorter incubation periods, resulting in rapid transmission that exceeded the capacity of Queensland Health’s five-man dengue control team. Furtherm...

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Mosquitoes and disease in Australia, what does the future hold?

Australia has a history of mosquito-borne disease, with historic accounts of endemic malaria, filariasis and dengue during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Bancroftian filariasis, once relatively prevalent in Queensland, has been eliminated and malaria was declared eradicated from Australia in 1981. However, the endemic flaviruses Murray Valley encephalitis and Kunjin and the alphaviruses Ross River and Barmah Forest, which cause encephalitic and polyarthritic syndromes, respectively, continue to be active. Dengue, although no longer consider...

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Bat viruses and diseases

Bats, representing approximately 20% of mammal species, are the most abundant, diverse and geographically dispersed vertebrates on earth. Bats of various species have recently been identified as the reservoir hosts of many emerging viruses responsible for severe human and livestock disease outbreaks. These include Hendra and Nipah viruses, SARS coronavirus, Ebola viruses, Melaka virus and others. Australian scientists played a vital role in the discovery and/or characterisation of many of these emerging bat viruses. While these viruses result i...

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2009 human H1N1 influenza (swine flu)

The 2009 H1N1 influenza, initially known as swine flu, originated in North America in early 2009. This new strain of influenza A virus (H1N1) came to the attention of the international public health community when several foci of influenza-like illness were identified in Mexico, which had more than 850 cases of pneumonia, of whom 59 had died. Mild cases of influenza-like illness were also reported from Texas and California. Virus isolates were obtained from the cases in California and from samples of cases sent from Mexico to the Canadian Natio...

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Equine influenza in Australia

A large-scale outbreak of equine influenza (EI) virus in Australia in 2007 resulted in major disruption to horse activities and related industries across the nation and particularly in the two infected states (Queensland and New South Wales). In a major test of animal health response capacity, the outbreak was successfully contained and the EI virus eradicated as a result of a coordinated national response that relied heavily on the cooperation of government and industry stakeholders. Quarantine measures have been strengthened to minimise the r...

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A new arbovirus in northern Australia

Routine arbovirus surveillance has unearthed a number of novel viruses circulating in domestic and wild animals in northern Australia. One of these is a new virus named Middle Point orbivirus (MPOV). While its disease potential remains unknown, evidence suggests that this virus emerged quite recently in Australia and it has now become the single most commonly isolated animal virus in the Northern Territory. The discovery of MPOV highlights the importance of obtaining prototype data on novel Australian viruses.

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Horses, humans and Hendra virus

Hendra virus again demonstrated its zoonotic capacity with the infection of two veterinary clinic staff (one fatally) in an outbreak in a Brisbane equine referral veterinary practice in 2008. Bats are recognised as the natural host of the virus.

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Rabies incursion into Bali, Indonesia in 2008

Canine and human rabies cases were confirmed in Bali in late November 2008, following several months of reported outbreaks of unusual dog biting episodes and several human deaths, with clinical signs consistent with rabies. Bali had been historically free of rabies, although the disease is endemic in many other parts of Indonesia. This incursion provides a unique case study into the local spread of rabies in a naive population with no prior public awareness of the disease and the possibility of eradicating rabies from Bali before it becomes end...

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Bluetongue virus is ‘on-the-move’

Bluetongue virus is ‘on-the-move’. The distribution of this important arthropod-borne pathogen of sheep and cattle is expanding rapidly, particularly in Europe, where its emergence and spread during the past decade have had severe economic consequences. The movement of bluetongue virus into new temperate European habitats appears to have been driven, at least in part, by global warming. Record summer temperatures, warmer winters and changes in precipitation patterns are believed to have provided the conditions necessary for more northerly seaso...

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The discovery of Bungowannah virus – an example of the need for conventional and new technologies

A novel disease in pigs and another new virus – so where is the flying fox connection? This was one of the first questions that many observers asked from the sidelines. In this instance there was no known connection with flying foxes, no suggestion of human illness but, as the investigation unravelled, a probable cause was identified – an apparently new virus that had close connections to an important pig pathogen that is exotic to Australia. This virus was, however, so genetically different from its relatives that pan reactive polymerase chain...

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Ebola-Reston virus in pigs

Ebolavirus Reston was detected in samples taken from pigs on two farms in the northern Philippines in mid-2008. This was the first known case of any of the filoviruses being detected in pigs anywhere in the world. Previously, filoviruses have only been isolated from humans and non-human primates, although serological evidence indicates that bats may also be infected with these viruses. Serological evidence of infection was also detected in six of 147 in-contact people tested as part of the investigation into this outbreak.

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The ‘Tiger’ on our doorstep: emergence of Aedes albopictus as an arbovirus vector in northern Australia

Aedes albopictus is commonly referred to as the ‘Asian Tiger Mosquito’, a name that describes its distinctive black and white banding and its origins in Southeast Asian rainforests. This highly invasive species is a competent vector of dengue viruses (DENVs) and was the primary vector during the recent resurgence of chikungunya virus (CHIKV) in the islands of the western Indian Ocean. Ae. albopictus is also a vicious biter and can transmit dog heartworm, Dirofilaria immitis, between dogs. In the last 30 years, it has colonised many parts of Eur...

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Nipah virus

Nipah virus emerged in 1999 in Peninsula Malaysia, where it caused a severe respiratory disease in pigs, some of which also displayed encephalitic symptoms. Humans became infected following contact with infected pigs and suffered a severe encephalitic disease. There were a total of 276 human infections in Malaysia and Singapore, with 106 deaths, a case fatality rate of 38.4% 1. The outbreak was finally contained by culling just over one million pigs at significant cost to the Malaysian economy.

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A disc test of antifungal susceptibility

Diagnostic laboratories are frequently requested to perform antifungal susceptibility tests on isolates recovered from systemic infections. A standard reference procedure of broth dilution was proposed by the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI), but it is too labour-intensive for most clinical laboratories. CLSI also suggested a disc diffusion method, which is a cost-effective alternative method and simple to use in diagnostic microbiology laboratories. However, the method does not deal satisfactorily with the difficulty in inter...

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ASM Affairs, September 2009

ASM2009 Awards; Microbiology in Korea; ASM Distinguished Service Awards 2009; ASM national scientific meeting; Science meets Parliament; Finding the courage to lead

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