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1.  Absence of an Important Vaccine and Diagnostic Target in Carriage- and Disease-Related Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae 
Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi)-associated disease is a major health problem globally. Whole-genome sequence analysis identified the absence of hpd genes encoding Haemophilus protein D in 3 of 16 phylogenetically distinct NTHi isolates. This novel finding is of potential clinical significance, as protein D and hpd represent important NTHi vaccine antigen and diagnostic targets, respectively.
PMCID: PMC3910944  PMID: 24285816
2.  High Nasopharyngeal Carriage of Non-Vaccine Serotypes in Western Australian Aboriginal People Following 10 Years of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccination 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82280.
Invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) continues to occur at high rates among Australian Aboriginal people. The seven-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (7vPCV) was given in a 2-4-6-month schedule from 2001, with a 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (23vPPV) booster at 18 months, and replaced with 13vPCV in July 2011. Since carriage surveillance can supplement IPD surveillance, we have monitored pneumococcal carriage in western Australia (WA) since 2008 to assess the impact of the 10-year 7vPCV program.
We collected 1,500 nasopharyngeal specimens from Aboriginal people living in varied regions of WA from August 2008 until June 2011. Specimens were cultured on selective media. Pneumococcal isolates were serotyped by the quellung reaction.
Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis were carried by 71.9%, 63.2% and 63.3% respectively of children <5 years of age, and 34.6%, 22.4% and 27.2% of people ≥5 years. Of 43 pneumococcal serotypes identified, the most common were 19A, 16F and 6C in children <5 years, and 15B, 34 and 22F in older people. 7vPCV serotypes accounted for 14.5% of all serotypeable isolates, 13vPCV for 32.4% and 23vPPV for 49.9%, with little variation across all age groups. Serotypes 1 and 12F were rarely identified, despite causing recent IPD outbreaks in WA. Complete penicillin resistance (MIC ≥2µg/ml) was found in 1.6% of serotype 19A (5.2%), 19F (4.9%) and 16F (3.2%) isolates and reduced penicillin susceptibility (MIC ≥0.125µg/ml) in 24.9% of isolates, particularly 19F (92.7%), 19A (41.3%), 16F (29.0%). Multi-resistance to cotrimoxazole, tetracycline and erythromycin was found in 83.0% of 23F isolates. Among non-serotypeable isolates 76.0% had reduced susceptibility and 4.0% showed complete resistance to penicillin.
Ten years after introduction of 7vPCV for Aboriginal Australian children, 7vPCV serotypes account for a small proportion of carried pneumococci. A large proportion of circulating serotypes are not covered by any currently licensed vaccine.
PMCID: PMC3857785  PMID: 24349245
3.  Dominance of Haemophilus influenzae in ear discharge from Indigenous Australian children with acute otitis media with tympanic membrane perforation 
Indigenous Australian children living in remote communities experience high rates of acute otitis media with tympanic membrane perforation (AOMwiP). Otitis media in this population is associated with dense nasopharyngeal colonization of three primary otopathogens; Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Moraxella catarrhalis. Little is known about the relative abundance of these pathogens during infection. The objective of this study was to estimate the abundance and concordance of otopathogens in ear discharge and paired nasopharyngeal swabs from children with AOMwiP (discharge of not more than 6 weeks’ duration and perforation size <2%).
Culture and quantitative PCR (qPCR) estimation of H. influenzae, S. pneumoniae, M. catarrhalis and total bacterial load were performed on paired nasopharyngeal and ear discharge swabs from 55 Indigenous children with AOMwiP aged 3.5 – 45.6 months and resident in remote communities.
By culture, H. influenzae, S. pneumoniae, and M. catarrhalis were detected in 80%, 84% and 91% of nasopharyngeal swabs, and 49%, 33% and 4% of ear discharge swabs, respectively. Using qPCR, H. influenzae, S. pneumoniae, and M. catarrhalis were detected in 82%, 82%, and 93% of nasopharyngeal swabs, and 89%, 41% and 18% of ear discharge swabs, respectively. Relative abundance of H. influenzae in ear discharge swabs was 0-68% of the total bacterial load (median 2.8%); whereas S. pneumoniae and M. catarrhalis relative abundances were consistently <2% of the total bacterial load. S. pneumoniae and M. catarrhalis abundances were significantly lower in ear discharge compared with nasopharyngeal swabs (p = 0.001, p < 0.001); no significant difference was observed in H. influenzae mean abundance at the two sites.
H. influenzae was the dominant otopathogen detected in ear discharge swabs collected from children with AOMwiP. High prevalence and abundance of S. pneumoniae and M. catarrhalis in the nasopharynx did not predict ear discharge prevalence and abundances of these pathogens. PCR was substantially more sensitive than culture for ear discharge, and a necessary adjunct to standard microbiology. Quantitative methods are required to understand species abundance in polymicrobial infections and may be needed to measure accurately the microbiological impact of interventions and to provide a better understanding of clinical failure in these children.
PMCID: PMC3852835  PMID: 24099576
Otitis media; Haemophilus influenzae; Moraxella catarrhalis; Streptococcus pneumoniae; Bacterial load; Abundance; Relative abundance; qPCR
4.  Surveillance of pneumococcal serotype 1 carriage during an outbreak of serotype 1 invasive pneumococcal disease in central Australia 2010–2012 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:409.
An outbreak of serotype 1 invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) occurred in Central Australia from October 2010 to the latter part of 2012. Surveillance of serotype 1 carriage was conducted to determine epidemiological features of asymptomatic carriage that could potentially be driving the outbreak.
130 patients and accompanying persons presenting at Alice Springs Hospital Emergency Department consented to nasopharyngeal swab (NPS) collection. NPS were processed by standard methods, including culture, pneumococcal lytA quantitative real-time PCR, serotype 1-specific real-time PCR and multi-locus sequence typing (MLST).
Pneumococcal carriage was detected in 16% of participants. Carriage was highest in the under 10 year olds from remote communities surrounding Alice Springs (75%). Four NPS were positive for serotype 1 DNA by PCR; 3 were also culture-positive for serotype 1 pneumococci. Serotype 1 isolates had atypical colony morphology on primary culture. All serotype 1 carriers were healthy children 5 to 8 years of age from remote communities. By MLST, serotype 1 isolates were ST306, as were IPD isolates associated with this outbreak.
During an outbreak of serotype 1 ST306 IPD, carriage of the outbreak strain was detected in 3% NPS collected. All carriers were healthy children 5 to 8 years of age.
PMCID: PMC3766201  PMID: 24138669
Invasive pneumococcal disease; Serotype 1; Central Australia; Carriage
5.  Stores Healthy Options Project in Remote Indigenous Communities (SHOP@RIC): a protocol of a randomised trial promoting healthy food and beverage purchases through price discounts and in-store nutrition education 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:744.
Indigenous Australians suffer a disproportionate burden of preventable chronic disease compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts – much of it diet-related. Increasing fruit and vegetable intakes and reducing sugar-sweetened soft-drink consumption can reduce the risk of preventable chronic disease. There is evidence from some general population studies that subsidising healthier foods can modify dietary behaviour. There is little such evidence relating specifically to socio-economically disadvantaged populations, even though dietary behaviour in such populations is arguably more likely to be susceptible to such interventions.
This study aims to assess the impact and cost-effectiveness of a price discount intervention with or without an in-store nutrition education intervention on purchases of fruit, vegetables, water and diet soft-drinks among remote Indigenous communities.
We will utilise a randomised multiple baseline (stepped wedge) design involving 20 communities in remote Indigenous Australia. The study will be conducted in partnership with two store associations and twenty Indigenous store boards. Communities will be randomised to either i) a 20% price discount on fruit, vegetables, water and diet soft-drinks; or ii) a combined price discount and in-store nutrition education strategy. These interventions will be initiated, at one of five possible time-points, spaced two-months apart. Weekly point-of-sale data will be collected from each community store before, during, and for six months after the six-month intervention period to measure impact on purchasing of discounted food and drinks. Data on physical, social and economic factors influencing weekly store sales will be collected in order to identify important covariates. Intervention fidelity and mediators of behaviour change will also be assessed.
This study will provide original evidence on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of price discounts with or without an in-store nutrition education intervention on food and drink purchasing among a socio-economically disadvantaged population in a real-life setting.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12613000694718
PMCID: PMC3751924  PMID: 23938097
Price discount; Nutrition education; Randomised multiple baseline; Aboriginal Australia
6.  Longitudinal Nasopharyngeal Carriage and Antibiotic Resistance of Respiratory Bacteria in Indigenous Australian and Alaska Native Children with Bronchiectasis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70478.
Indigenous children in Australia and Alaska have very high rates of chronic suppurative lung disease (CSLD)/bronchiectasis. Antibiotics, including frequent or long-term azithromycin in Australia and short-term beta-lactam therapy in both countries, are often prescribed to treat these patients. In the Bronchiectasis Observational Study we examined over several years the nasopharyngeal carriage and antibiotic resistance of respiratory bacteria in these two PCV7-vaccinated populations.
Indigenous children aged 0.5–8.9 years with CSLD/bronchiectasis from remote Australia (n = 79) and Alaska (n = 41) were enrolled in a prospective cohort study during 2004–8. At scheduled study visits until 2010 antibiotic use in the preceding 2-weeks was recorded and nasopharyngeal swabs collected for culture and antimicrobial susceptibility testing. Analysis of respiratory bacterial carriage and antibiotic resistance was by baseline and final swabs, and total swabs by year.
Streptococcus pneumoniae carriage changed little over time. In contrast, carriage of Haemophilus influenzae declined and Staphylococcus aureus increased (from 0% in 2005–6 to 23% in 2010 in Alaskan children); these changes were associated with increasing age. Moraxella catarrhalis carriage declined significantly in Australian, but not Alaskan, children (from 64% in 2004–6 to 11% in 2010). While beta-lactam antibiotic use was similar in the two cohorts, Australian children received more azithromycin. Macrolide resistance was significantly higher in Australian compared to Alaskan children, while H. influenzae beta-lactam resistance was higher in Alaskan children. Azithromycin use coincided significantly with reduced carriage of S. pneumoniae, H. influenzae and M. catarrhalis, but increased carriage of S. aureus and macrolide-resistant strains of S. pneumoniae and S. aureus (proportion of carriers and all swabs), in a ‘cumulative dose-response’ relationship.
Over time, similar (possibly age-related) changes in nasopharyngeal bacterial carriage were observed in Australian and Alaskan children with CSLD/bronchiectasis. However, there were also significant frequency-dependent differences in carriage and antibiotic resistance that coincided with azithromycin use.
PMCID: PMC3734249  PMID: 23940582
7.  Quantitative PCR of ear discharge from Indigenous Australian children with acute otitis media with perforation supports a role for Alloiococcus otitidis as a secondary pathogen 
Otitis media is endemic in remote Indigenous communities of Australia’s Northern Territory. Alloiococcus otitidis is an outer ear commensal and putative middle ear pathogen that has not previously been described in acute otitis media (AOM) in this population. The aims of this study were to determine the presence, antibiotic susceptibility and bacterial load of A. otitidis in nasopharyngeal and ear discharge swabs collected from Indigenous Australian children with AOM with perforation.
Paired nasopharyngeal and ear discharge swabs from 27 children with AOM with perforation were tested by A. otitidis quantitative PCR (qPCR). Positive swabs were cultured for 21 days. Total and respiratory pathogen bacterial loads in A. otitidis-positive swabs were determined by qPCR.
A. otitidis was detected by qPCR in 11 ear discharge swabs from 10 of 27 (37%) children, but was not detected in paired nasopharyngeal swabs. A. otitidis was cultured from 5 of 11 qPCR-positive swabs from four children. All A. otitidis isolates had minimum inhibitory concentrations consistent with macrolide resistance. All A. otitidis qPCR-positive swabs were culture-positive for other bacteria. A. otitidis bacterial load ranged from 2.2 × 104-1.1 × 108 cells/swab (median 1.8 × 105 cells/swab). The relative abundance of A. otitidis ranged from 0.01% to 34% of the total bacterial load (median 0.7%). In 6 of 11 qPCR-positive swabs the A. otitidis relative abundance was <1% and in 5 of 11 it was between 2% and 34%. The A. otitidis bacterial load and relative abundance measures were comparable to that of Haemophilus influenzae.
A. otitidis can be a dominant species in the bacterial communities present in the ear discharge of Indigenous children with AOM with perforation. The absence of A. otitidis in nasopharyngeal swabs suggests the ear canal as the likely primary reservoir. The significance of A. otitidis at low relative abundance is unclear; however, at higher relative abundance it may be contributing to the associated inflammation. Further studies to better understand A. otitidis as a secondary otopathogen are warranted, particularly in populations at high-risk of progression to chronic suppurative otitis media and where macrolide therapies are being used.
PMCID: PMC3546424  PMID: 23033913
Alloiococcus otitidis; Otitis media; Acute otitis media with perforation; Indigenous Australian children; Bacterial load
8.  Contribution of Serotype and Genetic Background to Virulence of Serotype 3 and Serogroup 11 Pneumococcal Isolates▿† 
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(12):4839-4849.
The capsular serotype has long been associated with the virulence of Streptococcus pneumoniae. Here we present an in-depth study of phenotypic and genetic differences between serotype 3 and serogroup 11 S. pneumoniae clinical isolates from both the general and indigenous populations of Australia. Both serotypes/groups included clonally unrelated strains with differences in well-known polymorphic virulence genes, such as nanA and pspA, as demonstrated by multilocus sequence typing and Western blot analysis. Nonetheless, the serotype 3 strains were consistently and significantly more virulent in mice than the serogroup 11 strains. Despite extensive genomic analysis, noncapsular genes common to one serotype/group but not the other were not identified. Nevertheless, following the conversion of a serotype 11A isolate to serotype 3 and subsequent analysis in an intranasal infection model, it was evident that both capsular and noncapsular factors determine the virulence phenotype in mice. However, it appears that these noncapsular factors vary from strain to strain.
PMCID: PMC3232656  PMID: 21930754
9.  Molecular Surveillance of True Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae: An Evaluation of PCR Screening Assays 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e34083.
Unambiguous identification of nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) is not possible by conventional microbiology. Molecular characterisation of phenotypically defined NTHi isolates suggests that up to 40% are Haemophilus haemolyticus (Hh); however, the genetic similarity of NTHi and Hh limits the power of simple molecular techniques such as PCR for species discrimination.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we assess the ability of previously published and novel PCR-based assays to identify true NTHi. Sixty phenotypic NTHi isolates, classified by a dual 16S rRNA gene PCR algorithm as NTHi (n = 22), Hh (n = 27) or equivocal (n = 11), were further characterised by sequencing of the 16S rRNA and recA genes then interrogated by PCR-based assays targeting the omp P2, omp P6, lgtC, hpd, 16S rRNA, fucK and iga genes. The sequencing data and PCR results were used to define NTHi for this study. Two hpd real time PCR assays (hpd#1 and hpd#3) and the conventional iga PCR assay were equally efficient at differentiating study-defined NTHi from Hh, each with a receiver operator characteristic curve area of 0.90 [0.83; 0.98]. The hpd#1 and hpd#3 assays were completely specific against a panel of common respiratory bacteria, unlike the iga PCR, and the hpd#3 assay was able to detect below 10 copies per reaction.
Our data suggest an evolutionary continuum between NTHi and Hh and therefore no single gene target could completely differentiate NTHi from Hh. The hpd#3 real time PCR assay proved to be the superior method for discrimination of NTHi from closely related Haemophilus species with the added potential for quantification of H. influenzae directly from specimens. We suggest the hpd#3 assay would be suitable for routine NTHi surveillance and to assess the impact of antibiotics and vaccines, on H. influenzae carriage rates, carriage density, and disease.
PMCID: PMC3314702  PMID: 22470516
10.  Viral-bacterial co-infection in Australian Indigenous children with acute otitis media 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2011;11:161.
Acute otitis media with perforation (AOMwiP) affects 40% of remote Indigenous children during the first 18 months of life. Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis are the primary bacterial pathogens of otitis media and their loads predict clinical ear state. Our hypothesis is that antecedent respiratory viral infection increases bacterial density and progression to perforation.
A total of 366 nasopharyngeal swabs from 114 Indigenous children were retrospectively examined. A panel of 17 respiratory viruses was screened by PCR, and densities of S. pneumoniae, H. influenzae and M. catarrhalis were estimated by quantitative real time PCR. Data are reported by clinical ear state.
M. catarrhalis (96%), H. influenzae (91%), S. pneumoniae (89%) and respiratory viruses (59%) were common; including rhinovirus (HRV) (38%), polyomavirus (HPyV) (14%), adenovirus (HAdV) (13%), bocavirus (HBoV) (8%) and coronavirus (HCoV) (4%). Geometric mean bacterial loads were significantly higher in children with acute otitis media (AOM) compared to children without evidence of otitis media. Children infected with HAdV were 3 times more likely (p < 0.001) to have AOM with or without perforation.
This study confirms a positive association between nasopharyngeal bacterial load and clinical ear state, exacerbated by respiratory viruses, in Indigenous children. HAdV was independently associated with acute ear states.
PMCID: PMC3128050  PMID: 21649905
11.  A Variable Region within the Genome of Streptococcus pneumoniae Contributes to Strain-Strain Variation in Virulence 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19650.
The bacterial factors responsible for the variation in invasive potential between different clones and serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae are largely unknown. Therefore, the isolation of rare serotype 1 carriage strains in Indigenous Australian communities provided a unique opportunity to compare the genomes of non-invasive and invasive isolates of the same serotype in order to identify such factors. The human virulence status of non-invasive, intermediately virulent and highly virulent serotype 1 isolates was reflected in mice and showed that whilst both human non-invasive and highly virulent isolates were able to colonize the murine nasopharynx equally, only the human highly virulent isolates were able to invade and survive in the murine lungs and blood. Genomic sequencing comparisons between these isolates identified 8 regions >1 kb in size that were specific to only the highly virulent isolates, and included a version of the pneumococcal pathogenicity island 1 variable region (PPI-1v), phage-associated adherence factors, transporters and metabolic enzymes. In particular, a phage-associated endolysin, a putative iron/lead permease and an operon within PPI-1v exhibited niche-specific changes in expression that suggest important roles for these genes in the lungs and blood. Moreover, in vivo competition between pneumococci carrying PPI-1v derivatives representing the two identified versions of the region showed that the version of PPI-1v in the highly virulent isolates was more competitive than the version from the less virulent isolates in the nasopharyngeal tissue, blood and lungs. This study is the first to perform genomic comparisons between serotype 1 isolates with distinct virulence profiles that correlate between mice and humans, and has highlighted the important role that hypervariable genomic loci, such as PPI-1v, play in pneumococcal disease. The findings of this study have important implications for understanding the processes that drive progression from colonization to invasive disease and will help direct the development of novel therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC3088708  PMID: 21573186
12.  Whole-Genome Characterization and Genotyping of Global WU Polyomavirus Strains▿ †  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(12):6229-6234.
Exploration of the genetic diversity of WU polyomavirus (WUV) has been limited in terms of the specimen numbers and particularly the sizes of the genomic fragments analyzed. Using whole-genome sequencing of 48 WUV strains collected in four continents over a 5-year period and 16 publicly available whole-genome sequences, we identified three main WUV clades and five subtypes, provisionally termed Ia, Ib, Ic, II, IIIa, and IIIb. Overall nucleotide variation was low (0 to 1.2%). The discriminatory power of the previous VP2 fragment typing method was found to be limited, and a new, larger genotyping region within the VP2/1 interface was proposed.
PMCID: PMC2876659  PMID: 20357093
13.  Epidemiology of nasopharyngeal carriage of respiratory bacterial pathogens in children and adults: cross-sectional surveys in a population with high rates of pneumococcal disease 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:304.
To determine the prevalence of carriage of respiratory bacterial pathogens, and the risk factors for and serotype distribution of pneumococcal carriage in an Australian Aboriginal population.
Surveys of nasopharyngeal carriage of Streptococcus pneumoniae, non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis were conducted among adults (≥16 years) and children (2 to 15 years) in four rural communities in 2002 and 2004. Infant seven-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (7PCV) with booster 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine was introduced in 2001. Standard microbiological methods were used.
At the time of the 2002 survey, 94% of eligible children had received catch-up pneumococcal vaccination. 324 adults (538 examinations) and 218 children (350 examinations) were enrolled. Pneumococcal carriage prevalence was 26% (95% CI, 22-30) among adults and 67% (95% CI, 62-72) among children. Carriage of non-typeable H. influenzae among adults and children was 23% (95% CI, 19-27) and 57% (95% CI, 52-63) respectively and for M. catarrhalis, 17% (95% CI, 14-21) and 74% (95% CI, 69-78) respectively. Adult pneumococcal carriage was associated with increasing age (p = 0.0005 test of trend), concurrent carriage of non-typeable H. influenzae (Odds ratio [OR] 6.74; 95% CI, 4.06-11.2) or M. catarrhalis (OR 3.27; 95% CI, 1.97-5.45), male sex (OR 2.21; 95% CI, 1.31-3.73), rhinorrhoea (OR 1.66; 95% CI, 1.05-2.64), and frequent exposure to outside fires (OR 6.89; 95% CI, 1.87-25.4). Among children, pneumococcal carriage was associated with decreasing age (p < 0.0001 test of trend), and carriage of non-typeable H. influenzae (OR 9.34; 95% CI, 4.71-18.5) or M. catarrhalis (OR 2.67; 95% CI, 1.34-5.33). Excluding an outbreak of serotype 1 in children, the percentages of serotypes included in 7, 10, and 13PCV were 23%, 23%, and 29% (adults) and 22%, 24%, and 40% (2-15 years). Dominance of serotype 16F, and persistent 19F and 6B carriage three years after initiation of 7PCV is noteworthy.
Population-based carriage of S. pneumoniae, non-typeable H. influenzae, and M. catarrhalis was high in this Australian Aboriginal population. Reducing smoke exposure may reduce pneumococcal carriage. The indirect effects of 10 or 13PCV, above those of 7PCV, among adults in this population may be limited.
PMCID: PMC2974682  PMID: 20969800
15.  Emerging pneumococcal carriage serotypes in a high-risk population receiving universal 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and 23-valent polysaccharide vaccine since 2001 
In Australia in June 2001, a unique pneumococcal vaccine schedule commenced for Indigenous infants; seven-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (7PCV) given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age and 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (23PPV) at 18 months of age. This study presents carriage serotypes following this schedule.
We conducted cross sectional surveys of pneumococcal carriage in Aboriginal children 0 to 6 years of age living in remote Aboriginal communities (RACs) in 2003 and 2005. Nasal secretions were collected and processed according to published methods.
902 children (mean age 25 months) living in 29 communities in 2003 and 818 children (mean age 35 months) in 17 communities in 2005 were enrolled. 87% children in 2003 and 96% in 2005 had received two or more doses of 7PCV. From 2003 to 2005, pneumococcal carriage was reduced from 82% to 76% and reductions were apparent in all age groups; 7PCV-type carriage was reduced from 11% to 8%, and 23PPV-non-7PCV-type carriage from 31% to 25% respectively. Thus non-23PPV-type carriage increased from 57% to 67%. All these changes were statistically significant, as were changes for some specific serotypes. Shifts could not be attributed to vaccination alone. The top 10 of 40 serotypes identified were (in descending order) 16F, 19A, 11A, 6C, 23B, 19F, 6A, 35B, 6B, 10A and 35B. Carriage of penicillin non-susceptible (MIC > = 0.12 μg/mL) strains (15% overall) was detected in serotypes (descending order) 19A, 19F, 6B, 16F, 11A, 9V, 23B, and in 4 additional serotypes. Carriage of azithromycin resistant (MIC > = 2 μg/mL) strains (5% overall), was detected in serotypes (descending order) 23B, 17F, 9N, 6B, 6A, 11A, 23F, and in 10 additional serotypes including 6C.
Pneumococcal carriage remains high (~80%) in this vaccinated population. Uptake of both pneumococcal vaccines increased, and carriage was reduced between 2003 and 2005. Predominant serotypes in combined years were 16F, 19A, 11A, 6C and 23B. Antimicrobial non-susceptibility was detected in these and 17 additional serotypes. Shifts in serotype-specific carriage suggest a need more research to clarify the association between pneumococcal vaccination and carriage at the serotype level.
PMCID: PMC2736967  PMID: 19650933
16.  Survival of pneumococcus on hands and fomites 
BMC Research Notes  2008;1:112.
Pneumococcal hand contamination in Indigenous children in remote communities is common (37%). It is not clear whether this requires frequent inoculation, or if pneumococci will survive on hands for long periods of time. Thus the aim of this study was to determine the survival time of pneumococci on hands and fomites.
The hands of 3 adult volunteers, a glass plate and plastic ball were inoculated with pneumococci suspended in two different media. Survival at specified time intervals was determined by swabbing and re-culture onto horse blood agar. Pneumococci inoculated onto hands of volunteers were recovered after 3 minutes at 4% to 79% of the initial inoculum. Recovery from one individual was consistently higher. By one hour, only a small number of pneumococci were recovered and this was dependent on the suspension medium used. At subsequent intervals and up to 3 hours after inoculation, < 10 colony forming units were recovered from hands. On a glass plate, pneumococcal numbers dropped an average 70% in the two hours after inoculation. Subsequently, < 100 colony forming units were recovered up to 15 hours after inoculation.
The poor survival of pneumococci on hands suggests that the high prevalence of pneumococcal hand contamination in some populations is related to frequent inoculation rather than long survival. It is plausible that hand contamination plays a (brief) role in transmission directly, and indirectly through contamination via fomites. Regular hand washing and timely cleansing or removal of contaminated fomites may aid control of pneumococcal transmission via these routes.
PMCID: PMC2600638  PMID: 19014518
17.  Compared to placebo, long-term antibiotics resolve otitis media with effusion (OME) and prevent acute otitis media with perforation (AOMwiP) in a high-risk population: A randomized controlled trial 
BMC Pediatrics  2008;8:23.
For children at high risk of chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM), strategies to prevent acute otitis media with perforation (AOMwiP) may reduce progression to CSOM.
In a double blind study in northern Australia, 103 Aboriginal infants with first detection of OME were randomised to receive either amoxicillin (50 mg/kg/d BD) or placebo for 24 weeks, or until bilateral aerated middle ears were diagnosed at two successive monthly examinations (success). Standardised clinical assessments and international standards for microbiology were used.
Five of 52 infants in the amoxicillin group and none of 51 infants in the placebo group achieved success at the end of therapy (Risk Difference = 9.6% [95% confidence interval 1.6,17.6]). Amoxicillin significantly reduced the proportion of children with i) perforation at the end of therapy (27% to 12% RD = -16% [-31,-1]), ii) recurrent perforation during therapy (18% to 4% RD = -14% [-25,-2]), and iii) reduced the proportion of examinations with a diagnosis of perforation during therapy (20% to 8% adjusted risk ratio 0.36 [0.15,0.83] p = 0.017). During therapy, the proportion of examinations with penicillin non-susceptible (MIC > 0.1 microg/ml) pneumococci was not significantly different between the amoxicillin group (34%) and the placebo group (40%). Beta-lactamase positive non-capsular H. influenzae (NCHi) were uncommon during therapy but more frequent in the amoxicillin group (10%) than placebo (5%).
Aboriginal infants receiving continuous amoxicillin had more normal ears, fewer perforations, and less pneumococcal carriage. There was no statistically significant increase in resistant pneumococci or NCHi in amoxicillin children compared to placebo children who received regular paediatric care and antibiotic treatment for symptomatic illnesses.
PMCID: PMC2443129  PMID: 18513453
18.  Measuring nasal bacterial load and its association with otitis media 
Nasal colonisation with otitis media (OM) pathogens, particularly Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis, is a precursor to the onset of OM. Many children experience asymptomatic nasal carriage of these pathogens whereas others will progress to otitis media with effusion (OME) or suppurative OM. We observed a disparity in the prevalence of suppurative OM between Aboriginal children living in remote communities and non-Aboriginal children attending child-care centres; up to 60% and <1%, respectively. This could not be explained by the less dramatic difference in rates of carriage of respiratory bacterial pathogens (80% vs 50%, respectively). In this study, we measured nasal bacterial load to help explain the different propensity for suppurative OM in these two populations.
Quantitative measures (colony counts and real-time quantitative PCR) of the respiratory pathogens S. pneumoniae, H. influenzae and M. catarrhalis, and total bacterial load were analysed in nasal swabs from Aboriginal children from remote communities, and non-Aboriginal children attending urban child-care centres.
In both populations nearly all swabs were positive for at least one of these respiratory pathogens. Using either quantification method, positive correlations between bacterial load and ear state (no OM, OME, or suppurative OM) were observed. This relationship held for single and combined bacterial respiratory pathogens, total bacterial load, and the proportion of respiratory pathogens to total bacterial load. Comparison of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children, all with a diagnosis of OME, demonstrated significantly higher loads of S. pneumoniae and M. catarrhalis in the Aboriginal group. The increased bacterial load despite similar clinical condition may predict persistence of middle ear effusions and progression to suppurative OM in the Aboriginal population. Our data also demonstrated the presence of PCR-detectable non-cultivable respiratory pathogens in 36% of nasal swabs. This may have implications for the pathogenesis of OM including persistence of infection despite aggressive therapies.
Nasal bacterial load was significantly higher among Aboriginal children and may explain their increased risk of suppurative OM. It was also positively correlated with ear state. We believe that a reduction in bacterial load in high-risk populations may be required before dramatic reductions in OM can be achieved.
PMCID: PMC1479363  PMID: 16686940
19.  Otitis media in young Aboriginal children from remote communities in Northern and Central Australia: a cross-sectional survey 
BMC Pediatrics  2005;5:27.
Middle ear disease (otitis media) is common and frequently severe in Australian Aboriginal children. There have not been any recent large-scale surveys using clear definitions and a standardised middle ear assessment. The aim of the study was to determine the prevalence of middle ear disease (otitis media) in a high-risk population of young Aboriginal children from remote communities in Northern and Central Australia.
709 Aboriginal children aged 6–30 months living in 29 communities from 4 health regions participated in the study between May and November 2001. Otitis media (OM) and perforation of the tympanic membrane (TM) were diagnosed by tympanometry, pneumatic otoscopy, and video-otoscopy. We used otoscopic criteria (bulging TM or recent perforation) to diagnose acute otitis media.
914 children were eligible to participate in the study and 709 were assessed (78%). Otitis media affected nearly all children (91%, 95%CI 88, 94). Overall prevalence estimates adjusted for clustering by community were: 10% (95%CI 8, 12) for unilateral otitis media with effusion (OME); 31% (95%CI 27, 34) for bilateral OME; 26% (95%CI 23, 30) for acute otitis media without perforation (AOM/woP); 7% (95%CI 4, 9) for AOM with perforation (AOM/wiP); 2% (95%CI 1, 3) for dry perforation; and 15% (95%CI 11, 19) for chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM). The perforation prevalence ranged from 0–60% between communities and from 19–33% between regions. Perforations of the tympanic membrane affected 40% of children in their first 18 months of life. These were not always persistent.
Overall, 1 in every 2 children examined had otoscopic signs consistent with suppurative ear disease and 1 in 4 children had a perforated tympanic membrane. Some of the children with intact tympanic membranes had experienced a perforation that healed before the survey. In this high-risk population, high rates of tympanic perforation were associated with high rates of bulging of the tympanic membrane.
PMCID: PMC1187897  PMID: 16033643
20.  The clinical course of acute otitis media in high-risk Australian Aboriginal children: a longitudinal study 
BMC Pediatrics  2005;5:16.
It is unclear why some children with acute otitis media (AOM) have poor outcomes. Our aim was to describe the clinical course of AOM and the associated bacterial nasopharyngeal colonisation in a high-risk population of Australian Aboriginal children.
We examined Aboriginal children younger than eight years who had a clinical diagnosis of AOM. Pneumatic otoscopy and video-otoscopy of the tympanic membrane (TM) and tympanometry was done every weekday if possible. We followed children for either two weeks (AOM without perforation), or three weeks (AOM with perforation), or for longer periods if the infection persisted. Nasopharyngeal swabs were taken at study entry and then weekly.
We enrolled 31 children and conducted a total of 219 assessments. Most children had bulging of the TM or recent middle ear discharge at diagnosis. Persistent signs of suppurative OM (without ear pain) were present in most children 7 days (23/30, 77%), and 14 days (20/26, 77%) later. Episodes of AOM did not usually have a sudden onset or short duration. Six of the 14 children with fresh discharge in their ear canal had an intact or functionally intact TM. Perforation size generally remained very small (<2% of the TM). Healing followed by re-perforation was common. Ninety-three nasophyngeal swabs were taken. Most swabs cultured Streptococcus pneumoniae (82%), Haemophilus influenzae (71%), and Moraxella catarrhalis (95%); 63% of swabs cultured all three pathogens.
In this high-risk population, AOM was generally painless and persistent. These infections were associated with persistent bacterial colonisation of the nasopharynx and any benefits of antibiotics were modest at best. Systematic follow up with careful examination and review of treatment are required and clinical resolution cannot be assumed.
PMCID: PMC1177962  PMID: 15955251
21.  In Vivo Penicillin MIC Drift to Extremely High Resistance in Serotype 14 Streptococcus pneumoniae Persistently Colonizing the Nasopharynx of an Infant with Chronic Suppurative Lung Disease: a Case Study 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2002;46(11):3648-3649.
This is the first report of in vivo pneumococcal penicillin MIC drift from 4.0 to 16.0 mg/liter, possibly associated with alterations in the pbp1a gene. The case presented here is of an infant with early onset recurrent pneumonia and chronic bronchitis requiring repeated antibiotics.
PMCID: PMC128758  PMID: 12384383
22.  Low Genetic Diversity of Haemophilus influenzae Type b Compared to Nonencapsulated H. influenzae in a Population in Which H. influenzae Is Highly Endemic 
Infection and Immunity  1998;66(7):3403-3409.
Immunization with Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) conjugate polysaccharide vaccines has dramatically reduced Hib disease worldwide. As in other populations, nasopharyngeal carriage of Hib declined markedly in Aboriginal infants following vaccination, although carriage has not been entirely eliminated. In this study, we describe the genetic characteristics and the carriage dynamics of longitudinal isolates of Hib, characterized by using several typing methods. In addition, carriage rates of nonencapsulated H. influenzae (NCHi) are high, and concurrent colonization with Hib and NCHi is common; we also observed NCHi isolates which were genetically similar to Hib. There is a continuing need to promote Hib immunization and monitor H. influenzae carriage in populations in which the organism is highly endemic, not least because of the possibility of genetic exchange between Hib and NCHi strains in such populations.
PMCID: PMC108359  PMID: 9632612
23.  Effect of health promotion and fluoride varnish on dental caries among Australian Aboriginal children: results from a community-randomized controlled trial* 
We tested a dental health program in remote Aboriginal communities of Australia's Northern Territory, hypothesizing that it would reduce dental caries in preschool children.
In this 2-year, prospective, cluster-randomized, concurrent controlled, open trial of the dental health program compared to no such program, 30 communities were allocated at random to intervention and control groups. All residents aged 18–47 months were invited to participate. Twice per year for 2 years in the 15 intervention communities, fluoride varnish was applied to children's teeth, water consumption and daily tooth cleaning with toothpaste were advocated, dental health was promoted in community settings, and primary health care workers were trained in preventive dental care. Data from dental examinations at baseline and after 2 years were used to compute net dental caries increment per child (d3mfs). A multi-level statistical model compared d3mfs between intervention and control groups with adjustment for the clustered randomization design; four other models used additional variables for adjustment.
At baseline, 666 children were examined; 543 of them (82%) were re-examined 2 years later. The adjusted d3mfs increment was significantly lower in the intervention group compared to the control group by an average of 3.0 surfaces per child (95% CI = 1.2, 4.9), a prevented fraction of 31%. Adjustment for additional variables yielded caries reductions ranging from 2.3 to 3.5 surfaces per child and prevented fractions of 24–36%.
These results corroborate findings from other studies where fluoride varnish was efficacious in preventing dental caries in young children.
PMCID: PMC3040293  PMID: 20707872
dental caries; fluoride varnish; health promotion; indigenous; randomized controlled trial

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