Issue 11
Monday, 17 July 2017
Charles Darwin University
Associate Professor Phil Giffard of Menzies School of Health Research
Associate Professor Phil Giffard of Menzies School of Health Research

Study informs public health surveillance

By Claire Addinsall

Surface swabbing of toilets and bathrooms could strengthen disease surveillance, according to recent research from Menzies School of Health Research, which has been published in the journal PeerJ.

The paper, “Primary health clinic toilet/bathroom surface swab sampling can indicate community profile of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)” reports significant correlations between surface swabs and STI notifications data in the Northern Territory.

Menzies researcher and lead author Associate Professor Phil Giffard said the study demonstrated that swab sampling could provide valuable information that was complementary to notifications data, while also having the potential to provide information for areas where there was no effective system of notification.

“In the NT, STIs are notifiable,” Dr Giffard said. “This enabled us to match our data from toilet and bathroom surface swab sampling from urban and rural communities in the NT with the notification data from corresponding population areas to test for correlations.

“Further application may be in situations other than the primary health clinics where we tested, such as travel hubs and entertainment precincts and for targets other than STIs such as antibiotic resistance genes or exotic viruses.”

In addition, the swabbing system had a number of benefits that would contribute to the ease of take up for public health surveillance purposes.

“Swab sampling is a low cost, non-intrusive method of testing public areas,” Dr Giffard said.

The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The  full paper is available at W: