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Microbiology Australia Microbiology Australia
Issue 4

Public Health

Vertical Transmission

The ASM’s motto is ‘Bringing Microbiologists Together’. We achieve this by holding general meetings – specifically, the Bistate, Tristate and Annual Scientific Meetings. I am a firm believer in the value of general meetings such as these, because I know from experience how much we stand to learn from colleagues who work in areas outside our own narrow focus of interest.

Public Health

This issue of Microbiology Australia looks at some evolving aspects of microbiology as it relates to Public Health in Australia.

The history of Public Health Diagnostic Microbiology in Australia: early days until 1990

The arrival of the First Fleet in Port Jackson in 1788, and the subsequent establishment of the colony of NSW began the history of the Australian public health system. Prior to Federation each state dealt with their own public health issues and much of the microbiological analysis was performed in the early hospitals and medical school departments of universities. Today, as there is no central Laboratory for the Commonwealth of Australia, each Australian state is responsible for the microbiological testing relevant to public health. However, be...

Maintaining momentum on immunisation in Australia

The introduction of the National Immunisation Program 20 years ago was a catalyst for immunisation in Australia, resulting in significant improvements in immunisation coverage rates, reduced morbidity from diseases covered through the Program, and high community acceptance and support. At the same time, concerns about vaccine safety have grown, a paradoxical result of the success of vaccination and driven by a small cohort with strong anti-vaccination views. Vaccination is one of public health's greatest successes – while it's important ...

Public health impacts of culture independent diagnostic testing in Australia

Culture independent diagnostic tests (CIDT) for detection of pathogens in clinical specimens have become widely adopted in Australian pathology laboratories. Pathology laboratories are the primary source of notification of pathogens to state and territory surveillance systems. Monitoring and analysis of surveillance data is integral to guiding public health actions to reduce the incidence of disease and respond to outbreaks. As with any change in testing protocol, the advantages and disadvantages of the change from culture based testing to cult...

Antimicrobial resistance a threat to public health

Antimicrobial resistance is a complex issue and is a threat to public health globally. While emerging and re-emerging diseases have captured news headlines with outbreaks such SARS, bird flu, Ebola and Zika virus around the world, leading health experts tells us that there is a more serious threat to public health – antimicrobial resistance (AMR)1.

Impact of whole genome sequencing in Public Health reference laboratories

Public Health Microbiology reference laboratories fulfil a critical role in providing overarching testing and surveillance for notifiable, emerging and important pathogens. These duties require the laboratory to possess an extensive repertoire of validated assays and the ability to rapidly respond to novel threats and outbreaks. For these, among other reasons, the ‘one stop shop' approach of whole genome sequencing (WGS) has been embraced by microbiology reference laboratories. The ability to replace multiple labour-intensive assays with...

The role of microbiology in gonococcal control in the West: helping to understand the enemy

Western Australia (WA), Australia's largest state by area, has one of the highest notification rates of gonorrhoea in the world. This is likely a reflection of the challenges of providing health services over a vast remote area combined with a unique set of sociocultural aspects. Despite this, microbiology can play a pivotal role in the public health management of gonorrhoea even if the primary health services are thousands of kilometres away from the laboratory. However, it requires new approaches to how diagnostic testing and laboratory surve...

The Australian Gonococcal Surveillance Programme 1979–2017

Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG) is an important human bacterial pathogen responsible for more than 78million infections per annum globally1. In Australia and elsewhere, NG infection rates are increasing and, critically, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in NG poses a substantial threat to health security2. In response, the Australian Gonococcal Surveillance Programme (AGSP) was established in 1979, and has steadfastly evolved since that time to meet the challenges of continuously emerging AMR (Figure 1).

OzFoodNet into the future: the rapid evolution of foodborne disease surveillance in Australia

OzFoodNet is Australia's national enhanced foodborne disease surveillance network. OzFoodNet is currently evolving in order to meet the most significant challenges faced since it commenced in 2000: the transition to culture independent diagnostic tests and the introduction of whole genome sequencing for typing of enteric pathogens. This has changed the nature of foodborne disease surveillance and outbreak investigation in Australia.

Changing epidemiology of invasive meningococcal disease in Australia 1994–2016

Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) has a relatively low incidence in Australia, however remains a serious public health issue, with a case fatality rate of approximately 10% despite antimicrobial treatment. IMD is particularly seen in young children, but can affect all age groups. The disease has non-specific early symptoms, rapid clinical progression mainly manifesting as septicaemia and/or meningitis, and has the potential for long term sequelae in the survivors, including skin scarring, amputation, deafness and seizures. There are 13 serog...

Norovirus and cruise ships

Acute gastroenteritis (AGE) is one of the most common diseases of humans in both developed and developing countries. Despite the improved safety of food handling and prevention strategies, it remains one of the most significant health burdens on society1. An estimated 1.8 million AGE-associated deaths occur annually worldwide2,3, making it the leading cause of mortality among children under the age of five years. In this article, we examine recent trends in emerging noroviruses, the ability of ...

Public health aspects of Dengue virus infection relevant to Australia

Dengue is endemic in over 100 countries. The disease is not endemic in Australia currently, although the mosquito vector and imported cases cause sporadic outbreaks, predominantly in Queensland. The illness dengue fever causes a spectrum of disease from asymptomatic or a minor febrile illness through to a fatal disease caused by shock from plasma leakage or haemorrhage. There is currently no specific treatment for dengue. Dengue is mainly diagnosed using serology, antigen detection and PCR. Serological diagnosis of dengue can be difficult becau...

Public Health Laboratory Network

The Public Health Laboratory Network had its inaugural meeting on 26 June 1997. The meeting was chaired by Professor Lyn Gilbert who played a pivotal role in establishing this group. This was the first time that all the state and territory public health laboratory directors had been called to meet together. Members expressed a strong desire to communicate more closely on issues of public health importance and recognised the importance of promoting the role of public health laboratories in outbreak investigations and routine and enhanced surveil...

Microbial health-based targets for drinking water: current state and Australian case study

Through the avoidance of a substantial health burden globally, access to safe drinking water is an important foundation of public health1. An emerging development in this regard is the use of public health metrics, such as disability-adjusted life years, to inform water safety planning2. This paper examines the hypothesis that confidence in the protection of public health, on the part of water suppliers, health regulators, and ultimately consumers is strengthened through the implementation of a health outcome target for th...

Public health impact of the Enteroviruses and Parechoviruses

Enteroviruses (EV) comprise viruses originally classified on cell culture replication patterns and clinical manifestations into a number of groups: poliovirus, coxsackievirus A, coxsackievirus B and ECHOvirus. The closely related genus Parechovirus has more recently been associated with human disease. EVs are common commensals of the human gut, often found without any ill effects on the person, but are also associated with a wide range of diseases and syndromes including non-specific rash illnesses, hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), c...

The movement of humans and the spread of Salmonella into existing and pristine ecosystems

The spread of infectious diseases by the international and national movement of people, animals, insects and products has a documented history dating back several centuries1. The role of human movements has been fundamental to this, and has increased as global travel has risen in amount and speed. This has been exemplified by international epidemics of influenza, antimicrobial resistant bacteria, SARS coronavirus, dengue, chikungunya virus, Zika viruses and many others. Foodborne pathogens have also regularly come to our attention fo...

The World Federation of Culture Collections (WFCC) and the need for a sustained future of the Australian Collection of Microorganisms (ACM)

Volume 38 Number 4

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