08 October 2020
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The prevention and control of infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Australia has been significantly bolstered thanks to almost $17 million in funding awarded to researchers at the Doherty Institute by the Commonwealth Government.

One project will directly link to the Microbiology labs at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH).

Approximately $7 million will be used towards delivering a clinical Metagenomics Platform for Australia.

Clinical metagenomic next-generation sequencing (mNGS) is a transformative approach in microbial diagnostics and patient care, because it can be used to detect and characterise all known pathogens - bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic - in one single test. The META-GP program will develop and implement clinical metagenomic diagnostics for infectious diseases in Australia.

This program will be led by Professor Deborah Williamson, Director of Microbiology, Royal Melbourne Hospital and Deputy Director of Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory at the Doherty Institute.

The capacity to detect and characterise all potential pathogens — bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites — directly from a patient sample, and in real-time, reduces diagnostic delays in the diagnosis, prevention and control of infectious disease.

“By the end of the META-GP program, Australia will have the first accredited, nationally-accessible network of laboratories that can apply metagenomic approaches in patient care,” Prof Williamson said.

The other project will be led by University of Melbourne Professor Ben Howden, Director of the Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory at the Doherty Institute.

The Precision Public Health in Australia through Integrated Pathogen Genomics (P2HAGE) will be funded approximately $10 million.

This will used to implement and evaluate a nationally synchronised approach to public health pathogen genomics with a real-time genomic analysis and reporting platform to facilitate rapid and coordinated responses to infectious disease.

Professor Howden said the P2HAGE program would integrate genomics practises and information sharing across all states and territories across four areas of national need – respiratory and vaccine preventable diseases, foodborne diseases, sexually-transmitted infections, and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

“Through P2HAGE, health departments across Australia and Commonwealth communicable diseases control agencies will have access to cost-effective genomic technologies across a unified platform that will enable them to rapidly identify, communicate and prevent the spread of infectious diseases and AMR. The program will ensure harmonised and equitable public health responses across jurisdictions including regions traditionally lacking access to emerging technologies,” said Professor Howden.

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