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An Australian study into the effectiveness of a H1N1 swine flu vaccine has revealed a single dose produces an excellent response against the virus in most children.

The study, led by Professor Terry Nolan, Head of the Vaccine and Immunisation Research Program at the University of Melbourne and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, and colleagues in major children’s hospitals around Australia has been published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“This influenza vaccine has shown an excellent level of protection against influenza in children following a single dose, although health authorities around the world have recommended two doses to provide optimum protection against this unpredictable infection,” Professor Nolan said.

“However, a single dose could be a viable option in the future.”

Results of the trial demonstrate a robust immune response after a single dose in children as young as six months of age, which is further enhanced by the administration of a second dose given three weeks later.

The clinical study included 370 healthy infants and children aged six months to nine years located in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. Participants were divided into two groups, and given either a 15 microgram or a 30 microgram dose of the vaccine, produced by Australian biopharmaceutical company CSL.

A second dose was given to each group three weeks later. Blood samples to test protective antibody levels were taken before the first dose, and following each dose of vaccine.

Analysis shows that following the initial dose, 15 microgram induces protective antibody levels in 92 percent of children aged six to 35 months; and 92.9 percent in children aged three to nine years. After a second dose, 100 per cent of children in both age groups had protective antibody levels. Immune responses were robust regardless of age, baseline immune status, or seasonal influenza vaccine immunisation status.

The vaccine was well-tolerated by the children studied, with minor adverse effects very similar to that seen with seasonal influenza vaccines. No safety concerns were noted in the study

“As influenza can be a very severe disease in young children which spreads rapidly in those attending school or daycare, the published results of this trial are important and timely,” Professor Nolan said.

‘Vaccinating children is a significant component of reducing influenza transmission in the community. We are continuing to see outbreaks of H1N1 influenza in the Northern Hemisphere. Therefore, we cannot assume the threat of the disease has passed in Australia.’

When it comes to precious commodities, it could be copper, not gold or oil, that stands out in the future, according to Dr Les Coleman.  

"Copper is interesting. It has been mined for the better part of ten thousand years, so we know copper very, very well, but the price keeps on going up."

"Generally if you know something very well you should be able to produce a lot of it quite cheaply and we don't seem to be able to do that, so it may be (a commodity) to look out for."

According to Dr Coleman we may be seeing the approach of 'peak copper.'

"One of the interesting things about commodities is that the only ones we've ever run out of are the so-called renewables, such as clean air, fish etc.  But we haven’t yet got to the stage where any non-renewable commodities become scarce, and that will be interesting."

"Commodities have proven to be, over a long period of time, a very accurate leading indicator of
the economy on the whole. It's quite good that commodity prices haven’t fallen very sharply - they are still at quite high levels by historical standards - and that's good for economic growth."

 

Leading Australian researchers have welcomed an announcement today by the Australian Government of $42M in funding for the development of a bionic eye capable of restoring vision to the blind.

Bionic Vision Australia is a consortium including the University of Melbourne, the University of New South Wales, the Bionic Ear Institute, Centre for Eye Research Australia and NICTA. The project is also supported by researchers from the Australian National University and the University of Western Sydney.

 Bionic Vision Australia Chairman, Professor Emeritus David Penington AC says the consortium is honoured to have been selected by the Australian Research Council for this funding.

 “This opportunity will allow our team to use its outstanding know-how and expertise to develop a functioning retinal implant that will deliver profound benefits to sufferers of degenerative vision loss such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration,” he says.

 Research Director of Bionic Vision Australia and Professor of Engineering at the University of Melbourne, Professor Anthony Burkitt, says the research program to develop a retinal implant is ambitious but that the expertise in the team makes it achievable.

 The new device will use a video camera - fixed to a patient’s glasses - to capture images which are then translated into electrical impulses that stimulate electrodes inserted into the retina. The resulting electrical impulses stimulate the same area of the retina usually activated by visual cues, and over time the patient learns to interpret these nerve signals as useful vision.

 Professor Nigel Lovell from UNSW’s Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering says this funding means life-changing bionic vision is now a step closer.

Head of the Macular Research Unit at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), and Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Melbourne, Dr Robyn Guymer says the new device will provide a greater benefit for patients than existing bionic eyes. “This advanced bionic eye will not only provide users with increased mobility and independence, but hopefully also enable them to recognize faces and read large print,” she says.

 Professor Rob Shepherd, the Director of the Bionic Ear Institute, says that Australia has been a world leader in medical bionics with the development of the bionic ear.  “The funding announced today by Senator Carr promises to continue our nation’s leadership in innovation, discovery and commercialization in medical bionics”, he says.

 Chief Executive Officer of Australia’s Information and Communications Technology Research Centre of Excellence (NICTA) Dr David Skellern, says he is thrilled that NICTA will be applying its advanced microelectronics and visual signal processing expertise to the bionic eye device development program. NICTA will collaborate with other BVA members to develop the implant’s hardware, communications and visual processing system.

 The first human implant is likely to occur in 2013 and take place at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne. 

 

A significant shift in the ETS debate will result from this week's Federal Opposition leadership spill, says University of Melbourne's Dr Les Coleman
 
 "The major issue to come out of Abbott 's  leadership is the fact that all bets are off now. Where there was consensus before about the ETS as being a good way forward, I think it will go right back to basics now and that there will be a complete reassesment of it."

"Whatever Abbott does in terms of his policies, I think it will open up this debate and allow a lot more opportunity to look for better and more productive solutions to climate change."

Dr Coleman says it's a shame that the Liberal leadership spill has further politicised an already confused debate.

"We really need to bring about behavioural change but we seem to have gone the other way to politicise it.  We've got discussions happening amongst diplomats and their track record in achieving change isn't very strong - look at the World Trade agreement which has taken decades to resolve."

"So it seems a great pity to me that the whole issue has become so politicised and we've lost sight of the need to get tangible behavioural change by consumers of energy and we need to implement a simple basic scheme."

The Oceanic Viking asylum seeker issue has barely caused a ripple of interest in Indonesia, where all the eyes are focussed on the biggest government corruption scandal in years, says Professor Tim Lindsey.  "It’s a little bit like America's Watergate scandal."

Professor Lindsey says the case threatens the anti-corruption platform that swept President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to a second term.  "It's particularly important for Yudhoyono, as he won a spectacular landslide election for his second term just months ago, and he won by running on a strong anti-corruption platform, promising to wipe out corruption and deal with the 'legal mafia'."

"Some two hundred and seventy minutes of wire taps were revealed by the anti-corruption commission that were played in the constitutional court of Indonesia, which had the entire nation riveted to their TV screens."

And Professor Lindsey says the case highlights how inward looking Australia is when it comes to news at its back door.  "We need to udnerstand that in the South East Asian context, not everything that happens is about Australia. While we have the biggest economy in the region, Indonesia domiantes the region strategically and has its own concerns. 

"While Australia has been in a feeding frenzy over the asylum seeker issues, Australia needs to realise that the issue that is confronting us are part of an international problem.  In Indonesia, another boat arriving is not news.  They're much more concerned about whether their government will survive and whether its anti-corruption credentials have any meaning."

You can read more from Prof Lindsey in today's Australian: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/indonesias-gecko-gate/story-e6frg6zo-1225799912887

Despite widespread economic recovery following last year’s Global Financial Crisis, Dr Les Coleman says we should be wary of rose-coloured glasses.


“Even the most optimistic forecasters aren’t expecting the economy to get back to full strength until the end of next year, and even these predictions are based on the variable assumptions of a resilient Aussie dollar, strong China and a continuation of strong commodity prices,” he says.


“The world is in a much better position economically than it was six months ago, but we are not out of the woods yet.”


Dr Coleman says many businesses got a real shock from the crisis as a result have become a lot more vigilant. However, he warns that many of the underlying issues causing the GFC have still not been addressed.


“We still have the same risks and there is no reason why the GFC couldn’t reoccur,” he says.

Dr Coleman is a Senior Lecturer in Finance in the Faculty of Economics and Commerce. A full staff profile can be found at:
http://www.finance.unimelb.edu.au/who/staffweb.cfm?StaffNo=113

Indigenous mothers removed from their natural families during childhood are significantly more likely than other Indigenous mothers to be victims of violence according to a new report led by Dr Kyllie Cripps from the University of Melbourne’s School of Population Health.

Dr Cripps analysis of data from the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Social Survey found mothers of the Stolen Generation living in remote areas were three times as likely to experience violence as other Indigenous mothers.

“These findings are troubling and add to accumulating evidence of the lasting impacts of removing young children from their families,” she says.

Dr Cripps says it’s also important to recognise that violence against women in Indigenous community is a national problem, and not restricted to remote communities.

“Our study suggests that women with young children who live in cities and towns are actually more likely to experience violence than those in remote communities.  This is not a problem confined to particular parts of Australia or a handful of communities.”

Dr Cripps says her report, published this week in the Medical Journal of Australia, is the first study to analyse population-level data about violence against women in Indigenous communities.

“It is an enormous problem and there are no easy solutions,” says Dr Cripps.

“But there are some violence prevention measures that we know work.  An important first step is to ensure that these services are both accessible to Indigenous women and organised in ways that are culturally appropriate.”

Long-term infrastructure planning should be encouraged, despite budget deficits says Dr Les Coleman.


“Every time governments talk about going into deficit, people seem to get hysterical. But it’s the only way we can afford to build infrastructure that lasts and we need to recognise the major social, economic and environmental problems our infrastructure gaps are causing," he says.


Dr Coleman says our cities are becoming less liveable because of infrastructure inadequacies and there is no doubt the economy would get stronger and environmental impacts would reduce if roads, airports and railways become more efficient.


Dr Coleman is a Senior Lecturer in Finance in the Faculty of Economics and Commerce. A full staff profile can be found at http://www.finance.unimelb.edu.au/who/staffweb.cfm?StaffNo=113

 

Australia has a vital role to play in the region in campaigning against the death penalty, says Fr Peter Norden AO.  "I dont think it's enough for Australians to say it's not an issue in this country.  We are based in a region where many countries execute their citizens and we are host to many overseas students studying in Australia from these countries.

"We need to engage with those students while they are studying here to be more creative in their thinking, because they're going to be the leaders in those countries when they return."

"We need to engage them in dialogue and conversation.  In their own countries many of them aren't even allowed to discuss this issue; there's no freedom of the press, there's no open discussion, they're too scared to sign petitions. 

Fr Norden, a Vice Chancellors Fellow at the Melbourne Law School, will be one of a number of key speakers at a rally tomorrow at the State Library as part of the International Day of Action Against the Death Penalty, organised by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. 

Final year Melbourne Law School student and Social Justice rep Alan Wu, barrister Julian McMahon Reprieve Australia President Rachel Walsh will also speak at the event.

Mergers, management changes and unfriendly work-family practices were the main reasons behind women leaving the workforce today a new survey has found.

The survey of 44 bank workers in Australia found that despite the popular assumption that professional women ‘opt out’ of the workforce to focus on family – “choosing to forgo top management aspirations to fulfill the traditional role of homemaker” - it was unlikely to be the main reason for their departure. 

“Many departures can be attributed to unfriendly and even discriminatory work practices that occur amid organisational change and masculine cultures,” says Associate Professor Isabel Metz, from the Melbourne Business School at the University of Melbourne. 

“This understanding suggests that companies might be able to retain professional women with policies and practices that better manage transitions due to organisational change – i.e. restructures – or personal change – i.e. maternity leave.”

A full media release is available at http://newsroom.melbourne.edu/news/n-155.

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