Doherty Institute - Research Publications

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    Longitudinal Analysis of Group A Streptococcus emm Types and emm Clusters in a High-Prevalence Setting: Relationship between Past and Future Infections.
    Campbell, PT ; Tong, SYC ; Geard, N ; Davies, MR ; Worthing, KA ; Lacey, JA ; Smeesters, PR ; Batzloff, MR ; Kado, J ; Jenney, AWJ ; Mcvernon, J ; Steer, AC (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2020-05-01)
    Group A Streptococcus is a pathogen of global importance, but despite the ubiquity of group A Streptococcus infections, the relationship between infection, colonization, and immunity is still not completely understood. The M protein, encoded by the emm gene, is a major virulence factor and vaccine candidate and forms the basis of a number of classification systems. Longitudinal patterns of emm types collected from 457 Fijian schoolchildren over a 10-month period were analyzed. No evidence of tissue tropism was observed, and there was no apparent selective pressure or constraint of emm types. Patterns of emm type acquisition suggest limited, if any, modification of future infection based on infection history. Where impetigo is the dominant mode of transmission, circulating emm types either may not be constrained by ecological niches or population immunity to the M protein, or they may require several infections over a longer period of time to induce such immunity.
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    A model of population dynamics with complex household structure and mobility: implications for transmission and control of communicable diseases
    Chisholm, RH ; Crammond, B ; Wu, Y ; Bowen, AC ; Campbell, PT ; Tong, SYC ; McVernon, J ; Geard, N (PEERJ INC, 2020-11-03)
    Households are known to be high-risk locations for the transmission of communicable diseases. Numerous modelling studies have demonstrated the important role of households in sustaining both communicable diseases outbreaks and endemic transmission, and as the focus for control efforts. However, these studies typically assume that households are associated with a single dwelling and have static membership. This assumption does not appropriately reflect households in some populations, such as those in remote Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, which can be distributed across more than one physical dwelling, leading to the occupancy of individual dwellings changing rapidly over time. In this study, we developed an individual-based model of an infectious disease outbreak in communities with demographic and household structure reflective of a remote Australian Aboriginal community. We used the model to compare the dynamics of unmitigated outbreaks, and outbreaks constrained by a household-focused prophylaxis intervention, in communities exhibiting fluid vs. stable dwelling occupancy. We found that fluid dwelling occupancy can lead to larger and faster outbreaks in modelled scenarios, and may interfere with the effectiveness of household-focused interventions. Our findings suggest that while short-term restrictions on movement between dwellings may be beneficial during outbreaks, in the longer-term, strategies focused on reducing household crowding may be a more effective way to reduce the risk of severe outbreaks occurring in populations with fluid dwelling occupancy.
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    Estimation of the force of infection and infectious period of skin sores in remote Australian communities using interval-censored data
    Lydeamore, MJ ; Campbell, PT ; Price, DJ ; Wu, Y ; Marcato, AJ ; Cuningham, W ; Carapetis, JR ; Andrews, RM ; McDonald, M ; McVernon, J ; Tong, SYC ; McCaw, JM ; Kouyos, RD (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2020-10-01)
    Prevalence of impetigo (skin sores) remains high in remote Australian Aboriginal communities, Fiji, and other areas of socio-economic disadvantage. Skin sore infections, driven primarily in these settings by Group A Streptococcus (GAS) contribute substantially to the disease burden in these areas. Despite this, estimates for the force of infection, infectious period and basic reproductive ratio—all necessary for the construction of dynamic transmission models—have not been obtained. By utilising three datasets each containing longitudinal infection information on individuals, we estimate each of these epidemiologically important parameters. With an eye to future study design, we also quantify the optimal sampling intervals for obtaining information about these parameters. We verify the estimation method through a simulation estimation study, and test each dataset to ensure suitability to the estimation method. We find that the force of infection differs by population prevalence, and the infectious period is estimated to be between 12 and 20 days. We also find that optimal sampling interval depends on setting, with an optimal sampling interval between 9 and 11 days in a high prevalence setting, and 21 and 27 days for a lower prevalence setting. These estimates unlock future model-based investigations on the transmission dynamics of skin sores.
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    Antimicrobial stewardship in remote primary healthcare across northern Australia
    Cuningham, W ; Anderson, L ; Bowen, AC ; Buising, K ; Connors, C ; Daveson, K ; Martin, J ; McNamara, S ; Patel, B ; James, R ; Shanks, J ; Wright, K ; Yarwood, T ; Tong, SYC ; McVernon, J (PEERJ INC, 2020-07-22)
    BACKGROUND: The high burden of infectious disease and associated antimicrobial use likely contribute to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance in remote Australian Aboriginal communities. We aimed to develop and apply context-specific tools to audit antimicrobial use in the remote primary healthcare setting. METHODS: We adapted the General Practice version of the National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey (GP NAPS) tool to audit antimicrobial use over 2-3 weeks in 15 remote primary healthcare clinics across the Kimberley region of Western Australia (03/2018-06/2018), Top End of the Northern Territory (08/2017-09/2017) and far north Queensland (05/2018-06/2018). At each clinic we reviewed consecutive clinic presentations until 30 presentations where antimicrobials had been used were included in the audit. Data recorded included the antimicrobials used, indications and treating health professional. We assessed the appropriateness of antimicrobial use and functionality of the tool. RESULTS: We audited the use of 668 antimicrobials. Skin and soft tissue infections were the dominant treatment indications (WA: 35%; NT: 29%; QLD: 40%). Compared with other settings in Australia, narrow spectrum antimicrobials like benzathine benzylpenicillin were commonly given and the appropriateness of use was high (WA: 91%; NT: 82%; QLD: 65%). While the audit was informative, non-integration with practice software made the process manually intensive. CONCLUSIONS: Patterns of antimicrobial use in remote primary care are different from other settings in Australia. The adapted GP NAPS tool functioned well in this pilot study and has the potential for integration into clinical care. Regular stewardship audits would be facilitated by improved data extraction systems.
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    Epidemiological consequences of enduring strain-specific immunity requiring repeated episodes of infection
    Chisholm, RH ; Sonenberg, N ; Lacey, JA ; McDonald, MI ; Pandey, M ; Davies, MR ; Tong, SYC ; McVernon, J ; Geard, N ; Lewis, B (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2020-06-01)
    Group A Streptococcus (GAS) skin infections are caused by a diverse array of strain types and are highly prevalent in disadvantaged populations. The role of strain-specific immunity in preventing GAS infections is poorly understood, representing a critical knowledge gap in vaccine development. A recent GAS murine challenge study showed evidence that sterilising strain-specific and enduring immunity required two skin infections by the same GAS strain within three weeks. This mechanism of developing enduring immunity may be a significant impediment to the accumulation of immunity in populations. We used an agent-based mathematical model of GAS transmission to investigate the epidemiological consequences of enduring strain-specific immunity developing only after two infections with the same strain within a specified interval. Accounting for uncertainty when correlating murine timeframes to humans, we varied this maximum inter-infection interval from 3 to 420 weeks to assess its impact on prevalence and strain diversity, and considered additional scenarios where no maximum inter-infection interval was specified. Model outputs were compared with longitudinal GAS surveillance observations from northern Australia, a region with endemic infection. We also assessed the likely impact of a targeted strain-specific multivalent vaccine in this context. Our model produced patterns of transmission consistent with observations when the maximum inter-infection interval for developing enduring immunity was 19 weeks. Our vaccine analysis suggests that the leading multivalent GAS vaccine may have limited impact on the prevalence of GAS in populations in northern Australia if strain-specific immunity requires repeated episodes of infection. Our results suggest that observed GAS epidemiology from disease endemic settings is consistent with enduring strain-specific immunity being dependent on repeated infections with the same strain, and provide additional motivation for relevant human studies to confirm the human immune response to GAS skin infection.
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    Scabies and risk of skin sores in remote Australian Aboriginal communities: A self-controlled case series study
    Phyo, TZA ; Cuningham, W ; Hwang, K ; Andrews, RM ; Carapetis, J ; Kearns, T ; Clucas, D ; McVernon, J ; Simpson, JA ; Tong, S ; Campbell, PT ; Vinetz, JM (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2018-07-01)
    BACKGROUND: Skin sores caused by Group A streptococcus (GAS) infection are a major public health problem in remote Aboriginal communities. Skin sores are often associated with scabies, which is evident in scabies intervention programs where a significant reduction of skin sores is seen after focusing solely on scabies control. Our study quantifies the strength of association between skin sores and scabies among Aboriginal children from the East Arnhem region in the Northern Territory. METHODS AND RESULTS: Pre-existing datasets from three published studies, which were conducted as part of the East Arnhem Healthy Skin Project (EAHSP), were analysed. Aboriginal children were followed from birth up to 4.5 years of age. Self-controlled case series design was used to determine the risks, within individuals, of developing skin sores when infected with scabies versus when there was no scabies infection. Participants were 11.9 times more likely to develop skin sores when infected with scabies compared with times when no scabies infection was evident (Incidence Rate Ratio (IRR) 11.9; 95% CI 10.3-13.7; p<0.001), and this was similar across the five Aboriginal communities. Children had lower risk of developing skin sores at age ≤1 year compared to at age >1 year (IRR 0.8; 95% CI 0.7-0.9). CONCLUSION: The association between scabies and skin sores is highly significant and indicates a causal relationship. The public health importance of scabies in northern Australia is underappreciated and a concerted approach is required to recognise and eliminate scabies as an important precursor of skin sores.
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    Implications of asymptomatic carriers for infectious disease transmission and control
    Chisholm, RH ; Campbell, PT ; Wu, Y ; Tong, SYC ; McVernon, J ; Geard, N (ROYAL SOC, 2018-02-01)
    For infectious pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae, some hosts may carry the pathogen and transmit it to others, yet display no symptoms themselves. These asymptomatic carriers contribute to the spread of disease but go largely undetected and can therefore undermine efforts to control transmission. Understanding the natural history of carriage and its relationship to disease is important for the design of effective interventions to control transmission. Mathematical models of infectious diseases are frequently used to inform decisions about control and should therefore accurately capture the role played by asymptomatic carriers. In practice, incorporating asymptomatic carriers into models is challenging due to the sparsity of direct evidence. This absence of data leads to uncertainty in estimates of model parameters and, more fundamentally, in the selection of an appropriate model structure. To assess the implications of this uncertainty, we systematically reviewed published models of carriage and propose a new model of disease transmission with asymptomatic carriage. Analysis of our model shows how different assumptions about the role of asymptomatic carriers can lead to different conclusions about the transmission and control of disease. Critically, selecting an inappropriate model structure, even when parameters are correctly estimated, may lead to over- or under-estimates of intervention effectiveness. Our results provide a more complete understanding of the role of asymptomatic carriers in transmission and highlight the importance of accurately incorporating carriers into models used to make decisions about disease control.
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    Indigenous Australian household structure: a simple data collection tool and implications for close contact transmission of communicable diseases
    vino, T ; Singh, GR ; Davision, B ; Campbell, PT ; Lydeamore, MJ ; Robinson, A ; McVernon, J ; Tong, SYC ; Geard, N (PEERJ INC, 2017-10-26)
    Households are an important location for the transmission of communicable diseases. Social contact between household members is typically more frequent, of greater intensity, and is more likely to involve people of different age groups than contact occurring in the general community. Understanding household structure in different populations is therefore fundamental to explaining patterns of disease transmission in these populations. Indigenous populations in Australia tend to live in larger households than non-Indigenous populations, but limited data are available on the structure of these households, and how they differ between remote and urban communities. We have developed a novel approach to the collection of household structure data, suitable for use in a variety of contexts, which provides a detailed view of age, gender, and room occupancy patterns in remote and urban Australian Indigenous households. Here we report analysis of data collected using this tool, which quantifies the extent of crowding in Indigenous households, particularly in remote areas. We use these data to generate matrices of age-specific contact rates, as used by mathematical models of infectious disease transmission. To demonstrate the impact of household structure, we use a mathematical model to simulate an influenza-like illness in different populations. Our simulations suggest that outbreaks in remote populations are likely to spread more rapidly and to a greater extent than outbreaks in non-Indigenous populations.
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    Whole genome sequencing reveals extensive community-level transmission of group A Streptococcus in remote communities
    Bowen, AC ; Harris, T ; Holt, DC ; Giffard, PM ; Carapetis, JR ; Campbell, PT ; McVernon, J ; Tong, SYC (CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS, 2016-07-01)
    Impetigo is common in remote Indigenous children of northern Australia, with the primary driver in this context being Streptococcus pyogenes [or group A Streptococcus (GAS)]. To reduce the high burden of impetigo, the transmission dynamics of GAS must be more clearly elucidated. We performed whole genome sequencing on 31 GAS isolates collected in a single community from children in 11 households with ⩾2 GAS-infected children. We aimed to determine whether transmission was occurring principally within households or across the community. The 31 isolates were represented by nine multilocus sequence types and isolates within each sequence type differed from one another by only 0-3 single nucleotide polymorphisms. There was evidence of extensive transmission both within households and across the community. Our findings suggest that strategies to reduce the burden of impetigo in this setting will need to extend beyond individual households, and incorporate multi-faceted, community-wide approaches.