Issue 19
Monday, 06 November 2017
Charles Darwin University
E-news
Menzies melioidosis research assistant Vanessa Rigas and Northern Arizona University research technician Austin Shannon with the MagPix machine
Menzies melioidosis research assistant Vanessa Rigas and Northern Arizona University research technician Austin Shannon with the MagPix machine

Melioidosis researchers train on life-saving machine

By Melody Song

A United States research technician has trained the Menzies School of Health Research melioidosis team to use a machine that can speed up the diagnosis of the potentially lethal bacterial infection.

Austin Shannon, of the Pathogen and Microbiome Institute at Northern Arizona University (NAU), said the MagPix machine alerted health professionals when a patient had an immune response to diagnostically important components of Burkholderia pseudomallei, which caused melioidosis.

“The diagnosis of melioidosis can sometimes be difficult; the test that is run on this machine takes blood samples and probes the immune system to see if it reacts to the bacteria, aiming to reach a faster and more accurate diagnosis,” Mr Shannon said.

“We have the same machine at NAU, and it seemed practical to share our knowledge with researchers working in the Northern Territory.”

Menzies and NAU, which have a partnership spanning more than 13 years, both purchased the machine through a grant from the US Pentagon’s Defence Threat Reduction Agency. 

B.pseudomallei is common in soil in Northern Australia and Asia. It does not occur in the United States, but there is a concern that the bacteria could be a biological threat.

No vaccine currently exists to prevent infection from the bacteria, which can be brought to the surface of the soil during the wet season. 

People with underlying medical conditions, including kidney disease and diabetes, can be particularly susceptible.