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Genomic surveillance of bacterial strains causing ear disease and upper respiratory illnesses in Hunter New England children and young people

University of Newcastle

  • Cardiovascular Early-Mid Career Researcher Grant
Date Funded:
  • 1 July, 2023
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Dr. Guy Cameron

Project Summary

Establishing a genomic platform for timely identification and characterisation of childhood infectious diseases causing severe illness and death.

What is the issue for NSW?

Divisions of the upper respiratory tract, such as ear, nose and throat are prone to bacterial infections in childhood. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children may experience more serious illness which can drive the development of chronic ear disease and related hearing loss. Similarly, infections of the nose and throat by bacterial species, such as Streptococcus pyogenes, can escalate and become life-threatening to young people. Tragically, this is a consequence of infection that has occurred in Hunter New England communities within the past few years. Having timely access to a high-quality diagnostic service and the right medical treatment may reduce the risk of these poor health outcomes. In addition, genomic surveillance will provide valuable information on bacterial species in the upper respiratory tract and in some instances, enables early identification of possible outbreaks and facilitates preventative measures to be taken.

What does the research aim to do and how?

At the John Hunter Hospital, a large expansion of infrastructure is under way to ensure acute care medicine and clinical research meet the growing needs of the Hunter New England communities. Our advanced genomic technology project aligns well with this development and will provide vital support for the future control of infectious diseases across our regions. It is noteworthy that invasive Streptococcus pyogenes infections have now become notifiable to Public Health under the Public Health Act 2010 since it may result in significant illness and death. Therefore, this project is critical to identify and to respond to outbreaks within our region.