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New projects to fight lung infections and boost Indigenous physical activity

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Curtin University researchers will develop and for the first time test in humans new treatments for lung infections that are resistant to traditional medicines such as antibiotics, as one of two new Curtin-led projects that have been supported by the Federal Government.

The research, led by Associate Professor Anthony Kicic from the Curtin School of Population Health and the Wal-yan Respiratory Research Centre at Telethon Kids Institute, will develop effective and safe treatments using viruses that infect and kill bacteria responsible for respiratory infections without any negative effect on human or animal cells.

Associate Professor Kicic said antibiotic-resistant bacteria were an increasing threat worldwide and there were very few options for treating infections caused by them.

“We believe we can use the natural predators of bacteria, called bacteriophages, to treat bacterial infections, either alone or in combination with antibiotics,” Associate Professor Kicic said.

“They lock onto and invade the bacterium, taking over the cellular machinery, replicating and then bursting from the cell, killing the bacterium. Since phages do not invade host cells, they do not cause cell damage nor are they likely to cause a significant immunological response from the patient.

“We will develop and test the effects of an inhaled treatment on patients experiencing chronic, recurrent antibiotic-resistant lung infections in order to assess safety, tolerance and efficacy.”

A separate project led by Professor Andrew Maiorana, from the Curtin School of Allied Health, will support Indigenous communities in Western Australia in the implementation of community-led physical activity programs.

Professor Maiorana said regular physical activity was important for good physical, mental and social health and reduced the risk of diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

“The aim of the ‘Talking Together, Walking Together’ project is to increase access to, and the uptake of physical activity in three diverse Aboriginal cultural groups; the Noongar nation of the Perth region, the Yamatji nation of the Mid-West and the Martu nation of the Pilbara,” Professor Maiorana said.

“Conducted over four years, the project will involve the research team working closely with Aboriginal communities to co-design and develop physical activity initiatives that meet the communities’ particular needs and priorities, after which the initiatives will be implemented.

“Community participation is key to the project and will include the co-design of culturally safe physical activity programs and assessment methods.

“Following this trial program, we will aim to expand the program to other Indigenous communities.”

Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran congratulated both teams on being awarded MRFF funding support.

“These projects have been made possible by Federal Government support as part of the Medical Research Future Fund, and I look forward to seeing how they will help improve the health and wellbeing of Australians,” Professor Moran said.

For more information about the Medical Research Future Fund, visit here.

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