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Randwick Microbiology laboratory celebrates 25-year milestone

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8th November, 2023

Our Randwick laboratory was designated a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre in 1998 and since then has been tracking the spread of serious disease across Australia.

The World Health Organ­i­sa­tion (WHO) has over 800 insti­tu­tions in over 80 coun­tries des­ig­nat­ed as Col­lab­o­rat­ing Cen­tres – sup­port­ing its work in areas such as nurs­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, chron­ic dis­eases and nutrition.

These cen­tres are an inter­na­tion­al net­work of lab­o­ra­to­ry insti­tu­tions that help the WHO ful­fill its man­dat­ed activ­i­ties, har­ness­ing exper­tise, skills and resources.

Twen­ty-five years ago, NSW Health Pathology’s Rand­wick micro­bi­ol­o­gy lab­o­ra­to­ry was des­ig­nat­ed by the WHO Direc­tor-Gen­er­al as a Col­lab­o­rat­ing Cen­tre for sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted infec­tions and antimi­cro­bial resis­tance. This WHO Col­lab­o­rat­ing Cen­tre is also now the nation­al coor­di­nat­ing cen­tre for the WHO Glob­al Antimi­cro­bial Resis­tance and Use Sur­veil­lance Sys­tem (GLASS).

The GLASS sup­ports glob­al antimi­cro­bial resis­tance sur­veil­lance and research efforts and helps inform deci­sion-mak­ing to dri­ve nation­al, region­al, and glob­al actions. Since the 1980s the lab­o­ra­to­ry has also coor­di­nat­ed the nation­al sur­veil­lance pro­gram for inva­sive meningo­coc­cal disease.

Med­ical Direc­tor at the Rand­wick Lab­o­ra­to­ry, Pro­fes­sor Mon­i­ca Lahra (pic­tured above far right) con­grat­u­lat­ed her col­leagues on the 25-year mile­stone, say­ing it was an hon­our to be work­ing with the WHO as a Col­lab­o­rat­ing Centre.

“Antimi­cro­bial resis­tance occurs when bac­te­ria become resis­tant to antibi­otics and is a major emerg­ing health threat around the world. It can affect any­one and can result in longer hos­pi­tal stays, high­er med­ical costs, and cause long-term side effects or even death,” Prof Lahra said.

“Our world-lead­ing experts are pro­vid­ing vital sur­veil­lance of antimi­cro­bial resis­tance and work­ing to keep all our com­mu­ni­ties safe. We coor­di­nate these pro­grams and col­lab­o­rate with part­ner organ­i­sa­tions glob­al­ly to sup­port the WHO,” Prof Lahra said.

“Our lab­o­ra­to­ry coor­di­nates the Aus­tralian Gono­coc­cal Sur­veil­lance Pro­gramme (AGSP) and the Aus­tralian Meningo­coc­cal Sur­veil­lance Pro­gramme (AMSP). These pro­grams are part of the work of the Nation­al Neis­se­ria Net­work which includes the Neis­se­ria Ref­er­ence Lab­o­ra­to­ries across the states and ter­ri­to­ries of Australia.

“Not­ing that gono­coc­cal and meningo­coc­cal dis­eases are very dif­fer­ent and the focus of the two pro­grams dif­fers. The AGSP focus­es pri­mar­i­ly on antimi­cro­bial resis­tance sur­veil­lance, where­as for inva­sive meningo­coc­cal dis­ease the AMSP focus­es on genet­ic typ­ing to deter­mine the serogroup.

“This is impor­tant as there are dif­fer­ent meningo­coc­cal serogroups cir­cu­lat­ing (main­ly B, W, Y and C in Aus­tralia) and a num­ber of meningo­coc­cal vac­cine types.”

Prof Lahra said noti­fi­ca­tions for both gono­coc­cal and meningo­coc­cal dis­eases were down dur­ing the COVID pandemic.

“In par­tic­u­lar meningo­coc­cal dis­ease rates in Aus­tralia were the low­est ever record­ed,” Prof Lahra said.

“This was attrib­uted to a range of fac­tors includ­ing pub­lic health restric­tions and very low rates of influen­za, as meningo­coc­cal dis­ease is known to increase with sea­son­al influen­za. Oth­er fac­tors include a change in vac­cine on the immu­ni­sa­tion sched­ule in 2018 to cov­er addi­tion­al meningo­coc­cal serogroups (from C to ACWY).”

Fol­low­ing the eas­ing of restric­tions from COVID there has been an increase in meningo­coc­cal dis­ease report­ed in Aus­tralia and elsewhere.

Track­ing of antimi­cro­bial resis­tance is show­ing more noti­fi­ca­tions and more resis­tance, in many cas­es asso­ci­at­ed with trav­el or con­tact over­seas, where antimi­cro­bial resis­tance rates are higher.

Find out more about our Rand­wick WHO Col­lab­o­rat­ing Cen­tre.


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