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Attack of the clones: Golden (and not so golden) staph in the Top End



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28th April 2011

This talk will describe our recent investigations into Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph) in the Top End. These studies have ranged across population level data, to individual patient clinical data, to molecular  fingerprinting of bacterial strains, to whole genome sequencing of one particular isolate. Population level data demonstrates that Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph) causes a disproportionate burden of disease on Aboriginal populations. Through the correlation of detailed clinical data and DNA fingerprinting of bacterial isolates we have demonstrated that not all S. aureus is the same – different clones cause different kinds of clinical disease. We have also addressed the hypothesis that antibiotic resistant strains of S. aureus are emerging from remote Aboriginal communities. Genome sequencing of the predominant strain circulating in remote communities has found this strain to not only be distantly related to S. aureus, but to also lack the golden coat that makes S. aureus 'golden staph'. Finally, using Australia wide data, I will present data looking at the differences in bloodstream infections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations and possible correlations with socio-economic markers.

Dr Tong is an infectious diseases physician at the Royal Darwin Hospital and a senior research fellow at Menzies. He has recently completed his PhD studies into the clinical and molecular epidemiology of Staphylococcus aureus in the Top End. He will be continuing his post-doctoral studies at Duke University, North Carolina, USA and the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK and has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to support his travels.