End of year review, 2016

2016 in review

A lot has happened this year. Sometimes it’s been like doing traffic duty during rush hour in the centre of Rome: lots of decisions, vehicles coming at you from all angles and no obvious coffee break on the horizon. It has left little time to review the bigger currents in the overall tide of events until now, when clinical demands continue to compete for time in the few days remaining. This review will be brief.

Antimicrobial resistant infections continue to dominate our work. The rise and rise of antimicrobial resistance grabbed the news headlines in August when the UN General Assembly debated the scale of the problem and the need for a global action plan; only the fourth time the UN has given a health issue this level of priority. As a result of securing support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for work on a new method for detecting antibiotic resistance, we had a presence at the Gates Foundation annual scientific meeting in London. It was a great opportunity to hook up with other impatient innovators and pool our efforts in the search for technology solutions to some of the world’s biggest health challenges. The conference was an important boost to our R&D programme in the last quarter, when most people are preparing for the long summer holiday. We end the year on a positive note, expecting some important news early in 2017. We’re going to have to keep readers in suspense until then.

Review 2016 in Sri Lanka

Rambutan seller, on the road between Colombo and Peradeniya

Our itinerary took us to Sri Lanka for training twice in 2016. The first time was a Rotary Global Grant activity that trained a group of clinical laboratory scientists and doctors in molecular biology methods. The top trainees were selected for a vocational training team, which visited Western Australia for additional immersion training with PathWest and University of Western Australia staff. But before that visit could take place, molecular biology equipment was delivered to Sri Lanka, and installed in clinical laboratories in Central and Northern Provinces. Lab Without Walls members travelled to Sri Lanka twice this year to support the project, and are helping Sri Lankan colleagues complete the next stage of a surveillance project on the potentially fatal tropical infection known as melioidosis.

Review 2016

Real time thermocycler’s first run in Northern Province, Sri Lanka.

Laboratory support for patients with sepsis was the focus of our initial work on regional diagnosis of septicaemia, and continued in field trials of the FilmArray technology in regional pathology laboratories. That work has expanded into a health economic study and evaluation of a similar FilmArray method for meningitis. This work in regional Western Australia was presented at national meeting in Perth and Melbourne, and European meetings in Wurzburg, Munich and Prague.

Those who want to hook up with our lab team can have a closer look at current projects via ResearchGate.

In many ways 2016 has been a year of the internationally bad, the sad and the mad. One of the sadder losses we ought to note is the passing of Jack Woodall, founder of the ProMED alerts for emerging infectious diseases. The world needs much more of his brand of enthusiastic internationalism. Considering his passing puts the work we’ve done this year into perspective. As we gaze into the start of 2017, how can we seize the day, strive to be our best and close in on those elusive millennium development goals? Let’s aim to achieve more than a bit of order in the rush hour traffic.




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