Qld breakthrough could help treatment of leukaemia

QUEENSLAND researchers have made an international breakthrough that could drastically improve the treatment of leukaemia patients.

Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg has praised the outstanding research work done by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.

"Professor Geoff Hill and his team have conducted clinical trials that could change the treatment worldwide for leukaemia patients undergoing bone marrow transplants," Mr Springborg said.

"They have made significant gains in reducing the incidence of 'acute graft versus host disease' - a potentially fatal complication that can arise following stem cell treatments - by adding the drug Tocilizumab to the transplant medication regime.

"This drug inhibits the body's response to trauma and its activation of the immune system.

"This means the therapy is safer and could be made available to more patients and improve their prognosis, which is a terrific outcome."

The Minister said Queensland had a lot to offer the international health and medical science community, with a strong research base, varied biodiversity, tropical locations, and its position in the Asia-Pacific region making it globally competitive.

Mr Springborg also pointed to Queensland's trailblazing approach to managing the risk of an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) case.

"Here in Queensland we have a dedicated Ebola Virus Disease incident management team," he said.

"They are working to ensure that not only are hospital staff equipped and informed, but that the broader community and industry groups have confidence in our capacity to respond to an EVD case, if it arises.

"Queensland's Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young has held several industry and union briefings and a number of resources have been developed for public and health workers, which will be continually updated as national and international standards evolve over time.''

World first research fighting dengue fever

"North Queensland has seen world-first research to fight the burden of dengue fever - ranked by the World Health Organization as the most serious mosquito-borne viral disease in the world.

"Dengue outbreaks occur regularly in North Queensland, with 192 locally-acquired cases between October 2013 and June of this year, but research into stopping the spread of the virus has been boosted with more than a million dollars in funding for the Australian-led Eliminate Dengue project."

Dr Peter Ryan from Monash University said the research team had shown that introducing Wolbachia, a commonly found bacteria in insects, into the dengue-carrying mosquito, stopped it from being able to transmit the virus.

"For nearly three years, with the support of Queensland residents and government, we have been releasing Wolbachia mosquitoes in communities where dengue has previously occurred, including suburbs in and around Cairns and recently in Townsville," said Dr Ryan.

"When released, Wolbachia mosquitoes breed with wild mosquitoes and pass Wolbachia to their offspring through the eggs.

"Should dengue be brought into areas where we have released Wolbachia mosquitoes we expect to see greatly reduced risk of local transmission of dengue."

He said further trials were currently underway in countries where dengue was endemic, including Indonesia, Vietnam and Brazil.