Tag Archives: Hepatitis B

(Merry) Christmas Disease

Hello there DiseaseOfTheWeek-ers! This is a small excerpt of a post that has been posted at my new home diseaseprone.fieldofscience.com. I wanted to wish you all a happy holiday period and I hope you enjoy this post.

So I was feeling a little lazy and thought I should find a disease related to Christmas, that way it’d be topical and I’d look like a genius. Well maybe not a genius, as all I did was type “Christmas” and “disease” into google and it returned “Christmas disease”. Don’t worry though, the disease itself is pretty cool!

Contrary to popular belief Christmas disease is not limited to just drunkenness

Unfortunately for me my attempt at topical blogging reveals that Christmas disease is not named after the holiday but instead after Mr Stephen Christmas, a British migrant  who immigrated to Canada, who was diagnosed at the age of 2 in 1949 with haemophilia. On a return visit to England in 1952 Stephen was again hospitalised and a sample of his blood was sent away to the Oxford Haemophilia Centre where it was determined by Rosemary Biggs and R.G. McFarlane that Mr. Christmas did not have a normal case of haemophilia, he had something that had never been described before.

For the rest of this post head over to Disease Prone


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What’s in a vaccine?


Waaaaaay back in the first post of my sub series on vaccines I said I would cover vaccine styles, how they work (and Pt. 2) and why we can’t rely on therapeutics alone. I promise I’ll get to the last one at some point but after a couple of weeks writing about vaccines something occurred to me that I hadn’t really thought about before, what is actually in a vaccine? Continue reading


Filed under James' Corner

Edinburgh hepatitis outbreak – Interview with Emeritus Professor Christopher Burrell


Continuing on with our series of vaccine-preventable disease, this week I was honoured to get an E-mail interview with Emeritus Professor Christopher Burrell. Chris has a CV longer than my arm: Officer of the Order of Australia, Head of the Infectious Disesase Laboratories at the IMVS, Professor of Virology at the University of Adelaide, co-founder and musical director of the Coriole Music Festival… the list goes on and on. As my own personal connection, he was the PhD supervisor of my PhD supervisor, Associate Professor Allison Jilbert.

Me and Chris Burrell (Photo taken by Dr. Chris Wong)

He was also one of the members of the team that investigated the 1969-70 hepatitis outbreak in Edinburgh at the Royal Infirmary and Western General Hospital. The outbreak coincided with the opening of a new unit, the Maintenance Hemodialysis Unit. Forty-four people came down with illness during the outbreak. Seven health care workers and four patients died from liver failure. It later gained noteriety in the general press and public with much damning of the hospital staff.

The following is a transcript of my E-mail interview with Chris Burrell:

Continue reading


Filed under Thomas' Corner

Free science? How can I lose?

Hey all,

Just another addition to this week’s article; I’m going to be giving a free public talk tomorrow at the South Australian Museum. This is as part of the museum’s Family Fun day. Details as follows:

Title: Liver? Nearly killed ‘er! – Me and hepatitis

When: 11am, Sunday 19th September 2010

Where: Pacific Cultures Exhibit, South Australian Museum, Adelaide

Hope to see you there,


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Filed under Thomas' Corner

Open letter to anti-vaccinationists

Some people have commented to me in person (and online) that I was a little brash in calling those violently opposed vaccinations as evil or ignorant. Also, that I might be completely shutting off dialogue and having people immediately list me as one of those pro-vaccination whores. I thought about this for a long time and concluded that they might be correct. But here’s why I said it:

My father and his sister in the kitchen/dining room/laundry of the house they grew up in (Picture taken by Thomas Tu)

My parents were Vietnamese immigrants, who came over to Australia during the Vietnam war. Some of my family have chronic hepatitis B (a vaccine-preventable disease) and may very well die of it. This is not surprising with the >20% prevalence of HBV infections in South East Asia. My family have seen a country without a strong vaccination or medical infrastructure; so when they came to Australia, they readily accepted the help and support of a developed medical program. This is what I want to emphasise in this series. Continue reading


Filed under Thomas' Corner

Vaccine styles for specific diseases

ResearchBlogging.orgThomas has started a series on vaccines and disease and I thought it was such a great idea that I would hijack it, kind of.

While Thomas talks about specific vaccines and their impact on certain diseases I thought I would cover some more general topics under the umbrella of vaccines. So let me present my own vaccine mini-series to supplement Thomas’ – Vaccines: how they are made?, how do they work?, and why we can’t rely on therapeutics alone in the fight against disease?

This week we will look at how some of the common ways vaccines are made. This has been a topic of interest to me for a while, ever since I heard someone from the (miss-information spreading, anti-vaccination supporting) Australian Vaccination Network giving a talk at a Vegan festival about the dangers of vaccines. In front of a room full of people this woman proudly proclaimed that the polio vaccine is made in monkey brains and if you let your child take the oral polio vaccine they will be eating monkey brain. I was dragged away before I could ‘politely question’ the woman by my wife, who had declared a science free weekend :).

Anyway, the point is that this woman was talking crap. There would be no logic to making the vaccine in monkey brains, how many monkey brains does she think evil scientists can get their hands on? All the monkey heads I get my hands on are used in the construction of two headed monkey slaves. I wouldn’t waste them on vaccine production.

I can only assume a two-headed monkey would complete my typing faster than a lazy, stupid one-headed monkey <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monkey-typing.jpg&gt;

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Filed under James' Corner

Scientific Casualties – Infectious disease research can be life threatening


Before this weeks post I would like to make an announcement. At this stage I am claiming victory in the debate. You can check out the results on the poll itself here. First I would like to thank myself for putting up such an amazing argument. I would also like to thank Thomas for putting up an insufficient fight, I’ll save some cake for you buddy. I would like to thank my wife and our dogs whose love and support get me throu………..<music plays me off stage>.

I don’t want to sound like I’m brave or a hero or anything but each and every day I, alongside my lab-mates aka ‘the league of extraordinary scientists’, stare down pathogens like S. pneumoniae, E. coli, S. flexneri and L. monocytogenes. We go into battle to try and work out how it is that we can tackle these bad guys on a global scale, developing vaccines and anti-microbials or simply understanding their weaknesses better.

So how do we protect ourselves from these harbingers of death in the lab? A gown, gloves and glasses when appropriate and ethanol on everything all the time to ensure it’s sterilised regularly. Really doesn’t seem like much of a barrier when I think about it.

Thomas wearing his lab coat to protect himself from his work… Thomas. Are you in a bar? Bad Thomas!

In some cases we specifically work on weakened strains to help protect ourselves further but we do rely heavily on our ability to handle these bacteria carefully and with common sense. However, despite all the precautions we take in the lab I’m reasonably sure some of us would be carrying the bugs we work on. Continue reading


Filed under James' Corner