Oncologist Dr. Belinda Yeoh and a patient

Departments

The international impact of gene technology

Our Director of Infection Control, Dr Jason Kwong, is using genomic technology to identify the origin of bacterial outbreaks.

It's World Health Day, and we believe that everyone has the right to access safe, high quality health care. That's why we're constantly working towards improving health outcomes for our patients through our ground breaking research projects and clinical practices.

Our Director of Infection Control, Dr Jason Kwong, is using genomic technology to identify the origin of bacterial outbreaks.

Austin Health was among the first hospitals in the world to use a molecular technology known as genome sequencing to pinpoint the origin of bacterial outbreaks by analysing DNA.

The process starts by taking a sample from the infected patient and growing the bacteria in a petri dish, which is then sampled for genomic testing.

"We grow the bacteria and then extract the DNA from the bacteria to put into the genome sequencing machine," says Dr Kwong.

From there we process the data using computer algorithms which can lead to us discovering the origin or source of the outbreak," he says.

Dr Kwong says the technology is used state-wide to identify outbreaks in hospitals such as superbugs, as well as on a national level in public health to track the spread of bacteria like salmonella.

"The technology can test up to thousands of individual bacterial strains," he says.

"We can identify where these bacteria are spreading and introduce measures to stop this spread."

However, the technology also has the capability to track genome data on a global scale.

"We've used it to link bacteria in our patients to outbreaks of the same bacteria that are occurring overseas," he says.

"It's like a digital signature."

As a result, the technology helps to quickly and accurately track the spread of bacteria to prevent or limit outbreaks of infections.

The Infectious Diseases Department at Austin Health has active research programs aimed at addressing clinically relevant infectious disease issues.

The department has many collaborations with clinical and researchers in Australia and overseas, including the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity. Visit https://bit.ly/2O7JVXE