Nine days in parasite

Cairns, Tropical North Queensland, usually a community known for its natural beauty and coral reef, for the past nine days has been a hub of activity and host to over 400 scientists and health professionals who have been debating and sharing ideas and new knowledge about parasites, infectious disease, and tropical health.

 "It has been an exciting nine days, with six meetings bringing together scientists, clinicians, veterinarians, clinicians and health workers to discuss vaccines and drug development and health programs for tropical health solutions," said Professor Louis Schofield, Director of the Queensland Tropical Health Alliance (QTHA).   

"Coupled with the opening of the new QTHA Research Laboratories at James Cook University's Cairns campus, the last nine days represent a historic moment in tropical health research in Queensland and Australia," said Professor Schofield.

Internationally renowned scientist, Patrick Lammie, Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.A.) described new approaches to tackling neglected tropical diseases like Lymphatic filariasis, which is caused by a parasitic worm and affects over 120 million people in 80 countries throughout the tropics and sub-tropics of Asia, Africa, and the Western Pacific, as well as parts of the Caribbean and South America.

Professor Rick Speare, QTHA researcher from James Cook University and member of the National Strongyloides Working Group said, "We have an exciting new technique for diagnosing strongyloidiasis, and have been testing and treating people in Indigenous Australian communities."

Strongyloidiasis is a disease caused by tiny parasitic worms called Strongyloides stercoralis that burrow through the tissues of the body. Most of the Australians who suffer from strongyloidiasis are Indigenous people living in Aboriginal communities and the northern two-thirds of Australia is a hot spot for this disease.

"Travellers who have visited places where strongyloidiasis is endemic in Australia and overseas may be exposed and any time the infection can escalate and kill the patient," said Professor Speare. 

"We need to establish national strategy for controlling strongyloidiasis, the first step is to make the disease notifiable nationally and set up a National Strongyloides Register so that the extent and severity of the disease can be assessed nationally," said Professor Speare.

But it is not all about parasites. QTHA researchers and Australian College for Tropical Medicine (ACTM) members will present new data about Indigenous health relating to substance use and mental health within Cape York Aboriginal communities; public health programs in the developing world; and disaster planning and response. Health professionals will report on how we respond to disasters in North Queensland and discuss flood related infections in light of recent disasters at the ACTM / QTHA conference today.

July 17 2011

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Lisa Jones, JCU Smithfield Campus, Cairns, QLD 4878, Australia

T +61 7 4042 1311    F +61 7 4042 1675


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