Siouxsie Wiles

Dr Siouxsie Wiles is a research scientist with a background in medical and environmental microbiology. She has made a career out of combining her twin passions of bioluminescence (the production of light by living organisms — think glow worms and fireflies) and nasty microbes. In a nutshell, Siouxsie and her team make nasty bacteria glow in the dark to better understand infectious diseases. Originally from the UK, Siouxsie now leads the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland. She was the 2013 winner of the Prime Minister's Science Media Communicator's Prize. Siouxsie is on Twitter @SiouxsieW

Coronavirus update: spread outside China and a new name - Infectious Thoughts

Feb 16, 2020

With over 69,000 confirmed cases and 1,600 deaths, here’s your round-up of the latest coronavirus news. New disease and virus have now officially been named On the 11th February, the WHO Director General announced a new name for the disease: COVID-19 which is short for coronavirus disease 2019. The naming follows the WHO’s commitment not to call diseases after people, places, or animals, to prevent stigma. The new virus itself also got a new name, decided on by the Coronavirus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. Because the virus is closely related to the coronavirus that caused the SARS outbreak, they’ve called this new virus SARS-CoV-2 – severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2. Plenty of people online are wondering if this was the right call seeing as the virus is actually more closely … Read More

Coronavirus: travel restrictions now in place for New Zealand - Infectious Thoughts

Feb 02, 2020

With reports that several people in New Zealand have been tested for suspected coronavirus – they were all negative – and the WHO declaring the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, our government has just announced entry restrictions for foreign nationals arriving from or transiting through mainland China.   A Public Health Emergency of International Concern Concerned that the coronavirus will spread to countries that do not have health systems to cope with the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has declared the outbreak in China a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This is a formal declaration by the WHO that the outbreak is a health risk and may require an international coordinated response to deal with. Under the 2005 International Health Regulations, when a declaration like this … Read More

Coronavirus update: drug trials and asymptomatic spread - Infectious Thoughts

Feb 02, 2020

Now officially a Public Health Emergency of International Concern here’s my second round-up of some of the week’s coronavirus-related news. Gilead announces they are working with Chinese to test their antiviral drug remdesivir On the 31st January, pharmaceutical company Gilead announced they are working with health authorities in China to establish a randomized, controlled trial to see if remdesivir can be used to treat people infected with the novel coronavirus. Remdesivir is what’s known as a nucleotide analogue prodrug which was developed to stop the Ebola virus from replicating inside cells. It was one of four drugs tested last year in a clinical trial during the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). That trial was stopped early after two of the four drugs dramatically cut the number of deaths. Remdesivir wasn’t one of the … Read More

A Public Health Emergency of International Concern – coronavirus update - Infectious Thoughts

Feb 01, 2020

With reports that someone in Auckland is being tested for the novel coronavirus, and the WHO declaring the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern here’s my first round-up of some of the week’s coronavirus-related news. New Zealand’s first case? Update 02/02/2020: Test came back negative. Also in the RNZ report is the information that so far 6 people have been tested and all have come back negative. The NZ Herald reported on Friday that someone with suspected coronavirus infection is in isolation in Auckland Hospital. Test results are due soon. It’s worth noting that the US CDC has reported that as of the 31st January it has tested 241 people for coronavirus infection. So far 6 people have tested positive and 114 people have tested negative. The results of the remaining 121 are … Read More

The coronavirus outbreak in China: what a difference a week makes - Infectious Thoughts

Jan 27, 2020

When it comes to emerging infectious diseases and outbreaks, so much can happen in a week. In the case of the coronavirus outbreak in China, I’ve gone from not being too alarmed, to thinking “oh, crap!”. But that still doesn’t mean we should all panic. As I’m writing this on Monday the 27th of January, New Zealand’s Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay have just briefed the media. They have said the likelihood of a case arriving here is high, especially as the number of cases in China increases. In response, public health protection officers and nurses are at Auckland and Christchurch airports to help people arriving from China who feel unwell. But here’s the important message: the chances of us seeing an outbreak like is happening in China is very … Read More

Snakeflu?! An intriguing source suggested for new Chinese coronavirus - Infectious Thoughts

Jan 23, 2020

Update 27/01/2020: Soon after the “snakeflu” paper was released, scientists took to social media expressing doubts, raising the fact that it’s pretty rare for the codon usage of a virus to closely match its reservoir host. Others criticised the way the authors prepared their codon usage tables. Kristian Andersen made some better codon usage tables and then calculated the codon usage of the new virus as well as the coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS to see how closely they matched to a range of different species including the known reservoir species for SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV as well as some unlikely species. Long story short: the codon usage bias of the novel coronavirus does indeed closely match several different snake species, but the same is also true for both MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV that have camels and bats as … Read More

The Chinese coronavirus outbreak: what are the options for vaccines and treatments? - Infectious Thoughts

Jan 22, 2020

By now you’ve probably heard of the coronavirus outbreak that started in Wuhan City, China. The number of cases is rising, up to about 300 with six deaths. Cases have been reported in several more Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as in Japan, Thailand, and South Korea. There are also reports of a case in Australia and another in the USA. For a quick explainer, check out my post here. A few people have asked about whether the virus can be treated with Tamiflu and what the prospects of a vaccine are. I’ll start by saying that as this is a ‘new’ virus, there are no proven antiviral treatments or vaccines. At the moment, people who are ill will be being given treatments to help relieve the symptoms of their infection. But here’s … Read More

The emerging coronavirus outbreak in China - Infectious Thoughts

Jan 21, 2020

By now you’ve probably heard of the new virus causing an outbreak of severe pneumonia in China. The question on most people’s minds is, how worried should we be, especially as hundreds of millions of people will soon be travelling across China and beyond to visit family for the Lunar New Year holiday? The situation is changing daily, but here’s where we’re at as of Tuesday evening. What’s happening in Wuhan City, China? In late December, there was a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause. Most of the people affected worked at a seafood and live animal market. By early January there had been 44 cases, with eleven of those people severely ill. To date, the number of confirmed cases has risen to over 200 and four people have died. Cases have now been reported in Beijing and … Read More

Open by design, not default. - Infectious Thoughts

Mar 14, 2019

I’m currently taking part in the Culture Track of the Mozilla Open Leaders programme, 14 weeks of mentoring and training by the Mozilla Foundation. I’m hoping to learn how to build an open culture for my lab and other projects I’m involved in. I’ve been interested in the concept of open science/research for a while now. If you haven’t heard of open science, it’s the movement to make more of our research practices, methods, and data accessible than just the stuff that eventually makes it into a scientific journal. That includes all our dead ends and failed experiments. I was so keen to give it a try that in 2013 I convinced my PhD student, now Dr, Hannah Read to document her experiments and data in real time in a sort of open lab book. As her … Read More

The Open Source Period project: my open leadership journey begins! - Infectious Thoughts

Mar 08, 2019

If you’ve not heard of Mozilla, you’ve likely heard of their web browser Firefox. The Mozilla Foundation is a global non-profit that wants to shape the future of the web for the public good. So, what’s Mozilla got to do with the Open Source Period project? For the last seven years, the Mozilla Foundation has run a programme called Open Leaders. Each year a cohort of people are chosen to go through 14 weeks of mentoring and training to “fuel the Internet Heath movement”. I came across the call for applicants for Round 7 of the programme on Twitter last year. I’d been looking around for a mentor to help guide me as I looked to start the Open Source Period project (more on that here). I was so excited to be accepted on to the … Read More