Monday, 16 October 2017

Simple blood test reduces antibiotic use in patients with acute respiratory infections

Professor Yahya Shehabi
Patients with acute respiratory infections should be tested for a blood marker for bacterial infection to determine antibiotic treatment, according to a large international study including researchers at Monash University.

Published yesterday in The Lancet ID, an individual patient data analysis from 26 randomised controlled trials across 12 countries was used to investigate the use of procalcitonin—a biomarker for bacterial infections—as a tool to improve decisions about antibiotic therapy.

Acute respiratory infections (ARIs) comprise a large group of infections including bacterial, viral and from other causes, accounting for over 10% of global disease burden. 

In these patients, “despite their mainly viral cause, unnecessary antibiotics significantly contribute to bacterial resistance, medical costs and the risk of drug-related side effects”, said co-author Professor Yahya Shehabi from Monash University who is also a critical care physician at Monash Health.  

“Blood levels of Procalcitonin (PCT) is negligible in normal people but rises substantially within hours of bacterial infection and decreases as patients recovers with appropriate antibiotic therapy.”

Randomised trials evaluated the use of procalcitonin based algorithms, to guide decision making for antibiotics prescription in acute respiratory infection. 

“Our individual patient meta-analysis, combining high quality trials using data from 6708 patients showed that the use of procalcitonin guided algorithms significantly reduced the risk of death by 17% and treatment failure by 12%.

“It also reduced antibiotic consumption and antibiotic-related side effects (16.3% versus 22.1%).”
“Our analysis also demonstrated that the benefits for sicker patients, like those needing intensive care treatment, is more pronounced.”  

 “Procalcitonin can be measured in the blood of patients at point of care providing clinicians with on the spot decision making for individual patients,” said Professor Shehabi, the only Australian author on the study.

Are Australian women being ‘left out in the cold’ over policies governing egg freezing?

SCS graduate research student Molly Johnston 
Australia is experiencing the growing global trend of women freezing their eggs for fertility preservation providing the option for thawing and IVF treatment in future to have children.

However, a major medical conference in Adelaide today heard there was no consistent cross border regulation about who should be able to access egg freezing with a call to review policies that encompass “changing societal opinions and community needs.”

Speaking at the annual scientific meeting of the Fertility Society of Australia, Monash University researcher Molly Johnston said: “While across border differences in health care are to be expected, they raise questions about whether the principles that underpin various policies on egg freezing are ethically justified and transparent.

“The variety of egg freezing policies seen worldwide suggest they lack evidence, are outdated and require serious review.  The distinction between medical and non-medical infertility underpins Australian policies, and it is open to challenge.”

Ms Johnston said another driving factor for a review was the advent of commercial or employer funding of elective egg freezing to keep young women in the workforce while delaying motherhood.

Australian women seeking elective or social egg freezing to preserve their fertility face a costly disadvantage compared to those seeking the treatment for medical reasons, including the prospect of being left infertile from cancer treatments or conditions such as severe endometriosis.

Women choosing elective egg freezing must pay for the treatment at around $10,000 per cycle, while those seeking it for medical reasons are eligible for Medicare rebates of around $5,000 per cycle.

“All women in Australia can seek egg freezing treatment regardless of their reasons,” Ms Johnston said.  “However, in the absence of common regulation, individual clinics govern access to the treatment and can impose their own restrictions such as an age limit. 

“What is contentious is whether reasons for seeking fertility preservation should matter.

“In medical or elective circumstances, women are seeking to prevent infertility and they are not infertile at the time they seek egg freezing.

“Similarly, it can be argued that there is no difference between medical and non-medical egg freezing as in both cases women are freezing their eggs with the same motive  – the hope of securing their reproductive future and protecting the chance of having their own biological offspring.”

Ms Johnston said company sponsored egg freezing began in the United States about three years ago with major companies including Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple now offering to cover the costs of egg freezing for their female employees as part of their medical benefits package.

“This trend is now emerging in Australia, but I am not aware of any employees who have yet taken up this option,” she said.

“While some hail company sponsored egg freezing as promoting a woman’s reproductive rights and choices, other argue that it is disempowering to women as they may feel pressured to take up the option or risk not being competitive in the workforce.”

National and world leaders in assisted reproductive technology are attending the Fertility Society meeting at the Adelaide Convention Centre providing compelling insights into new ways of assisting couples struggling to conceive naturally.

Story courtesy of Trevor Gill, Fertility Society of Australia.

MHTP Research Week poster competition - call for abstracts NOW. Submissions close 20 October.

MHTP Research Week is an exciting opportunity to acknowledge the achievements and showcase the ground-breaking research being conducted at the Monash Health Translation Precinct.

Poster competition and Early Career Researchers Awards.

A key element of Research Week is the poster competition and display.  The poster competition includes awards for Best Posters and Early Career Researchers. 

There will be a $500 prize for the Best Poster in each research category.  

The best Early Career Researcher will be chosen from the abstracts and the top four will be invited to present their research at an oral presentation. The first prize winner will receive $1,000.  

Please submit your entries online by clicking on the link below and following the instructions.  You will need to create a Currinda account (instructions on the link below). 

Please note that the closing date for poster submissions is Friday 20 October.

For further information, please contact  or

SCS trivia quiz

CID special seminar: "The HMGB1-RAGE axis in chronic inflammatory airways disease", 17 October

17 October, 12-1pm, seminar room 1, TRF

Presented by Dr Maria Sukkar, Graduate School of Health, University of Technology Sydney

Dr Sukkar’s work focusses on the role of the protein high-mobility group box-1 and its receptor RAGE in chronic inflammatory airways disease. Dr Sukkar was the first to show that soluble RAGE, an endogenous inhibitor of RAGE signaling, is deficient in sub-phenotypes of asthma/COPD in which neutrophilic inflammation plays a key role. Subsequent mechanistic investigations in mouse models identified a crucial role for HMGB1 and RAGE in driving distinct endotypes of asthma. Studies in mouse models of cigarette smoke exposure also revealed the important role of this inflammatory axis in COPD pathogenesis. In this seminar, Dr Sukkar will discuss current understanding of the HMGB1-RAGE axis in chronic inflammatory airways disease, and its potential as a therapeutic target.

Having completed her PhD at the University of Sydney in 2002, Dr Sukkar undertook postdoctoral research on a Wellcome Trust programme grant at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London; one of the top-ranked universities in the world. There, she worked with Prof Kian Fan Chung, a world leader in respiratory medicine. She returned to Australia in 2008 to take up a Lectureship at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Sydney. In 2012, she moved to the Graduate School of Health, University of Technology Sydney, where she is currently Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Pharmacy. Upon returning to Australia, Dr Sukkar established her own laboratory for respiratory research. She has maintained her international links, and has built an extensive network of national and international collaborations. Her current research is focused on innate immune mechanisms that drive the abnormal airway inflammatory response to environmental allergens, pollutants and pathogens in people with asthma and COPD.

Monash Haematology Journal Club, 18 Oct

7.30am Breakfast      7.45am Presentation
Monash Medical Centre, Level 2
Lecture Theatre 3
HAA Practice Presentations:
Outpatient-based immunochemotherapy is associated with favourable survival for patients with primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma – Dr Faye Liu
The role of platelets in increased Thrombogenicity following Splenectomy: Key Platelet-specific receptors and activation markers – Ms Sarah Luu

“Mechanisms of Cellular Dysmaturation in Preterm Brain Injury”, 19 October

This week's Hudson seminar will be held Thursday 19th October 12pm-1pm in Seminar Rooms 1 & 2, Level 2, TRF Building. 
Our speaker will be Dr Justin Dean, PhD, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

He will be presenting “Mechanisms of Cellular Dysmaturation in Preterm Brain Injury”

 Justin Dean is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physiology, the University of Auckland.

He received his PhD in Physiology in 2006 from the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

The long-term objectives of the studies in his laboratory are to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in brain injury arising from complications of prematurity, and to develop interventions to restore normal brain development in these infants.
A light lunch and refreshments will follow this presentation. 

Grand Rounds: “Rebuilding the kidney using stem cells”, 18 October

12.30-1.30pm, 18 October
Main Lecture Theatre, MMC

Presented by Professor Melissa Little

Professor Melissa Little is the Theme Director of Cell Biology at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, Program Leader of Stem Cells Australia, University of Melbourne and President of the Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research. She is internationally recognised for her work on the systems biology of kidney development and also her pioneering studies into potential regenerative therapies for kidney disease. This has resulted in the identification of factors capable of reprogramming to kidney and protocols for the directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells to kidney organoids.


Registrations are now open for the short course: Optimising Exercise Programs for Older People to Improve Balance and Prevent Falls. This course has been developed by leading falls prevention researchers and health professionals to provide evidence-based information on how to design and deliver falls prevention exercise programs. It is suitable for everyone from physiotherapists and occupational therapists, to researchers, educators, and academics.

Engaging and sustaining older people’s participation in falls prevention exercise programs is a continual challenge for health and fitness professionals.
This course has been developed by leading falls prevention researchers and health professionals to address these challenges. It will provide participants with evidence-based practical tools and information on how to design and deliver effective falls prevention exercise programs.

Short course details:

Date: Friday, 15th June 2018
Time:  9:00am—3:00pm
Venue: School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Ground Floor, Conference Rooms 1, 2 & 3, 553 St Kilda Road, Melbourne VIC 3004 
Cost: $350 pp (includin catering)
Who should attend: Fitness professionals, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, health educators, fitness educators, health promotion practitioners, researchers, academics.

For any queries about this event, please contact us at or 9903 0693.

ECR Prizes & Awards Calendar - October to December 2017

Please refer to the attached Prizes & Awards Calendar HERE for opportunities closing in October to December 2017Of particular note is the 2018 Victorian Young Achiever Awards for which nominations close on 18 December.

A comprehensive list of world-wide prestigious prizes and awards eligible to Australian researchers is also available at Research Professional.

If you are a Monash member of staff and intend to apply for any of the listed prizes or awards, please contact Mind Your Way, an academic consultancy engaged on the Monash Prizes & Awards Strategy on behalf of the Office of the Provost and Senior Vice-President. Only Monash staff are eligible to access Mind Your Way services paid by the Office of the Provost and Senior Vice-President. Adjuncts and affiliates wishing to engage Mind Your Way will have to enter into a contract and pay directly for services offered by Mind Your Way.

If, as part of the eligibility criteria, there are limits on numbers of applications that can be submitted by Monash, approval must be sought and obtained by the appropriate delegated individual.

eSolutions update - Zoom

We have recently had an increase in queries regarding Audio and Video conferencing and recording options available, and you may be interested to know about one of our most popular conferencing offerings, Zoom.
If you were not already aware, all staff can use Zoom to communicate and collaborate with multiple parties, both internal and external to Monash. This can be done from the office, home or remotely. Zoom offers good video, audio and screen-sharing quality across Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, high-end conferencing room systems and telephone.
All Monash staff can log in with their Monash email address and password. This now provides full access to Zoom functions and the hosting of meetings of any duration. Login to Zoom.

There are some staggering facts and figures that go with the ease of use and functionality of Zoom. For the month of September alone we had a total of 4557 meetings created with a total of 17025 participants. This is a 5 fold increase in meetings and participants over a 24 month period!

For video demonstrations on using Zoom, please click on the Youtube links below:

Scheduling a meeting
Joining a meeting
Sharing your screen
Recording a Zoom meeting
Privacy Information

Quick blood test can help doctors decide if patients need antibiotics

Yahya Shehabi in the Herald Sun.

Read article here.

Obinutuzumab for the First-Line Treatment of Follicular Lymphoma

Stephen Opat et al. published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Read article here.

Widespread Volumetric Reductions in Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Patients Displaying Compromised Cognitive Abilities

Suresh Sundram et al. published in Schizophrenia bulletin.

Read article here.

Concurrence of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire and developmental behaviour checklist among children with an intellectual disability

Kylie Gray et al. published in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.

Read article here.

Contextualizing post-traumatic stress disorder within culturally diverse groups: a comparison of Holocaust survivors and Sudanese refugees

Jarrod White, Glenn Melvin et al. published in the International Journal of Culture and Mental Health.

Read article here.

Topoisomerase 1 Inhibition Promotes Cyclic GMP-AMP Synthase-Dependent Antiviral Responses

Michael Gantier et al. published in mBio.

Read article here.

Clinical Simulation Training in Geriatric Medicine: A Review of the Evidence and Lessons for Training in Psychiatry of Old Age

Chris Plakiotis published in Advances in experimental medicine and biology.

Read article here.

Heart Failure and Exercise: A Narrative Review of the Role of Self-Efficacy

Francis Ha, James Cameron et al. published in Heart, Lung & Circulation.

Read article here.

The impact of sleep disordered breathing on cardiovascular health in overweight children

Rosemary Horne, Lisa Walter et al. published in Sleep Medicine.

Read article here.

The future of interventional & neurointerventional radiology: learning lessons from the past

Ronil Chandra et al. published in the British Journal of Radiology.

Read article here.

Screening investigations in small-for-gestational-age near-term and term infants

Atul Malhotra et al. published in the European Journal of Paediatrics.

Read article here.