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MEDIA ADVISORY: McMaster expert available to discuss avian flu outbreak at Ontario poultry farms

HAMILTON, April 13, 2015: Twenty-nine poultry farms in Ontario have now been placed under quarantine after H5 avian influenza was confirmed on a turkey farm in Woodstock.

Matthew Miller, a researcher at McMaster's Institute for Infectious Disease Research, is available to discuss disease transmission patterns among poultry, as well as the potential impact on humans should new strains of avian flu mutate further.

Miller is a leading expert on disease transmission from animals to humans and his ongoing research efforts are focused on developing a universal flu vaccine. He is familiar with the strains of avian flu that have been causing concern among public health officials.

"The decision to expand the quarantine zone in light of the confirmed outbreak in Woodstock is a prudent decision," says Miller. "Effective quarantine measures are currently the most effective means of preventing spread of the virus, and will serve to minimize the associated economic impact and potential health hazard."

Miller can be reached directly at 289-775-8573 or mmiller@mcmaster.ca

McMaster's on-campus broadcast studio is available for live or pre-taped television interviews.

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For more information please contact:

Michelle Donovan, Public Relations Manager, McMaster University

905-525-9140, ext. 22869

donovam@mcmaster.ca

Andrew Baulcomb, Public Relations Coordinator, McMaster University

905-525-9140, ext. 23585

baulcoad@mcmaster.ca

 


Just hit "print": Ordinary office inkjet printer could produce simple tool to identify infectious disease, food contaminants

HAMILTON, April 7, 2015: Consumers are one step closer to benefiting from packaging that could give simple text warnings when food is contaminated with deadly pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella, and patients could soon receive real-time diagnoses of infections such as C. difficile right in their doctors' offices, saving critical time and trips to the lab.

Researchers at McMaster University have developed a new way to print paper biosensors, simplifying the diagnosis of many bacterial and respiratory infections.

The new platform is the latest in a progression of paper-based screening technologies, which now enable users to generate a clear, simple answer in the form of letters and symbols that appear on the test paper to indicate the presence of infection or contamination in people, food or the environment.

"The simplicity of use makes the system easy and cheap to implement in the field or in the doctor's office," says John Brennan, director of McMaster's Biointerfaces Institute, where the work was done with biochemist Yingfu Li and graduate student Carmen Carrasquilla.

"Imagine being able to clearly identify contaminated meat, vegetables or fruit. For patients suspected of having infectious diseases like C. diff, this technology allows doctors to quickly and simply diagnose their illnesses, saving time and expediting what could be life-saving treatments. This method can be extended to virtually any compound, be it a small molecule, bacterial cell or virus," he says.

The research, in its formative stage, addresses a key problem facing current paper-based biosensing techniques which are labour-intensive, sometimes costly and inconvenient, and often difficult to mass produce.

Using state-of-the-art methods to produce "bio-inks", researchers can now use conventional office ink-jet printers to print man-made DNA molecules with very high molecular weight on paper, much like printing a letter in an office. The sheer size of the DNA -- which produces a signal when a specific disease biomarker is present -- is enough to ensure it remains immobilized and therefore stable. The paper sensor emerges from the printer ready to use, like pH paper.

The implications are significant, says Brennan, since the new technology could be used in many fields where quick answers to important questions are critical.

"We could conceivably adapt this for numerous applications which would include rapid detection of cancer or monitoring toxins in the water supply," says Brennan. "There are hundreds of possibilities."

A complete copy of the study, published online in the European journal Chemistry, can be found here.

A high resolution photo of John Brennan can be downloaded here.

A graphic illustrating the printable readouts can be found here.

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For more information please contact:

Michelle Donovan, Public Relations Manager, McMaster University

905-525-9140, ext. 22869

donovam@mcmaster.ca

Wade Hemsworth, Public Relations Manager, McMaster University

905-525-9140, ext. 27988

hemswor@mcmaster.ca

 


EXPERT ADVISORY: Canadian leaders in antibiotic resistance welcome US plan, say it drives momentum in critical global fight

HAMILTON, March 27, 2015: A new five-year plan to fight the critical problem of antibiotic resistance brings welcome momentum and attention to a fight that demands a global effort, say leading Canadian researchers in the field, who are available to comment this afternoon.

A new White House report lays out a five-year US plan to dedicate significant resources to overcoming the worldwide threat posed by the waning effectiveness of existing antibiotics - a growing problem that already kills thousands and poses a threat to millions more lives.

"It's great to see the US government throwing this kind of weight behind the fight against antibiotic resistance," says Gerry Wright, director of McMaster University's Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research. "The more that everyone recognizes the urgency of this issue, the more effective we can all be. This announcement is further confirmation that we are heading in the right direction. Now we need to take the momentum that we have already generated and push forward."

"It's essential that the international research community come together to address this critical issue," says Eric Brown, Canada Research Chair in Microbial Chemical Biology and co-organizer of next week's Keystone Symposium, an international conference that will bring together 150 leaders in the field in California. "There has been an explosion of resistance to antibiotics and our arsenal of antibiotics is gradually losing its effectiveness."

The IIDR is an international hub for innovative research into ways to discover new antibiotics, to make existing antibiotics more effective and to understand problems caused by the ways antibiotics are used in humans and animals.

The institute is home to leading scientists who are developing potential solutions with high throughput equipment and growing libraries of thousands of compounds taken from the soil and from inventories of existing compounds.

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To arrange an interview with Gerry Wright or Eric Brown, or to book the campus TV studio, contact:

Michelle Donovan, Public Relations Manager, McMaster University

905-525-9140, ext. 22869

donovam@mcmaster.ca

Wade Hemsworth, Public Relations Manager, McMaster University

905-525-9140, ext. 27988

hemswor@mcmaster.ca

 


Infectious disease expert available to discuss new case of measles reported in Hamilton

HAMILTON, March 19, 2015: Brian Lichty, an associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, is available to discuss the implications of the latest case of measles recently reported in Hamilton.

The new case comes after Ontario was declared measles-free last week. Public health officials are warning residents about possible exposure to the airborne disease - considered to be highly contagious - at several locations.

Lichty is available today for telephone interviews or via Facetime.

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For more information or to book an interview contact:

Michelle Donovan, Public Relations Manager, McMaster University

905-512-8548

donovam@mcmaster.ca