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

Zika: a potential new mozzie vector? - Infectious Thoughts

Mar 04, 2016

Brazilian scientists announce Zika could be spread by a different species of mosquito, one more common in Brazil and present in countries like New Zealand. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Zika virus is currently known to be transmitted by Aedes species mosquitoes, namely A. aegypti and A. albopictus. Media are now reporting that Brazilian scientists say they have succeeded in infecting another mosquito species, Culex quinquefasciatus, with the Zika virus in a laboratory. The report says the researchers injected the mosquitoes with Zika-infected rabbit blood and that the virus circulated through the mosquitoes’ bodies and into their salivary glands, meaning they might be able to transmit Zika to a person when taking a blood meal. What the scientists don’t yet know is if ‘wild’ mosquitoes are carrying the … Read More

Zika in NZ: sexual transmission or intrepid mosquito? - Infectious Thoughts

Mar 03, 2016

The New Zealand Ministry of Health are investigating a case of Zika in a woman who hasn’t travelled to a Zika-affected country recently. Is it a case of sexual transmission or a rogue mosquito? Update: I talked about this story this morning on RNZ’s Morning Report and TVNZ’s Breakfast on One. Also see my latest post about a potential new mosquito vector for the virus. Zika is a mosquito-borne virus currently infecting people in many countries in the America’s and the Pacific. The virus is causing concerns as it seems to be associated with an increase in babies being born with small brains and heads (a condition known as microcephaly). The New Zealand Ministry of Health say they are currently investigating a case of Zika in a woman who hasn’t recently travelled … Read More

Are 300 animals a day really tortured for scientific research in New Zealand? Part II - Infectious Thoughts

Feb 29, 2016

In the spirit of openness and transparency, I want to share what 42 animals that were involved in my 2014 research efforts experienced. I recently blogged about Paul Henry’s interview with NZ Anti-Vivisection Society (NZAVS) executive director Stephen Mason, in which Paul Henry repeatedly referred to the 300 animals a day tortured to death in the name of science. I’m paraphrasing, but you can watch the interview for yourself here. Stephen Mason was talking about the 2014 figures for the animals used for research, teaching and testing in New Zealand, just released by the Ministry for Primary Industries. He condemned the secrecy and lack of openness by publicly funded New Zealand institutions using animals. I agree with him. I wish that we would adopt a similar concordat to the UK in which … Read More

Are 300 animals a day really tortured for scientific research in New Zealand? Part 1. - Infectious Thoughts

Feb 23, 2016

“300 animals a day tortured to death.” is pretty much how Paul Henry recently reported the figures on the use of animals for scientific research, teaching and testing in New Zealand. A statement like that calls for some definite debunking! This month the Ministry for Primary Industries released the 2014 figures on the animals used for research, teaching and testing in New Zealand. You can read the report here but I’ve summarised it in FAQ form below. The NZ Anti-Vivisection Society (NZAVS) immediately put out a press release condemning the 38% increase in animals used compared to 2013 and the secrecy and lack of openness by publicly funded institutions using animals in New Zealand. NZAVS executive director Stephen Mason joined Paul Henry to discuss the figures on his breakfast show. And that’s how we ended … Read More

Are feminists really bullying Richard Dawkins? A response to Ken Perrott - Infectious Thoughts

Feb 18, 2016

My fellow sciblogger over on Open Parachute Ken Perrott has posted his thoughts on recent events involving prominent atheist Richard Dawkins, who was invited then disinvited to speak at a skeptics conference in the USA later this year.  Basically, Dawkins was invited to speak at the Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism (NECSS), then very publicly disinvited when he retweeted a video made by men’s rights activists (MRAs) attacking a feminist (who it turned out had had death threats from MRA’s for her views), then reinvited because NECSS “wish to use this incident as an opportunity to have a frank and open discussion of the deeper issues implicated here, which are causing conflict both within the skeptical community”. This is putting it mildly, but I’ll get on to that in a moment. In the meantime Dawkins … Read More

Zika update – sexual transmission & GM mosquitoes - Infectious Thoughts

Feb 04, 2016

Earlier this week the WHO declared the Zika virus outbreak in the Americas a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and yesterday the CDC reported that someone in Dallas had become infected with the virus by having sex with someone infected overseas. Meanwhile, the internet is awash with claims that genetically-modified mosquitoes are to blame for the outbreak in Brazil.  In case you need reminding, Zika is a virus spread by mosquitoes which is currently suspected of being responsible for a cluster of microcephaly cases – a condition in which babies are born with a small head and brain. I’ve previously posted an FAQ about Zika but here is another based on these latest developments. What is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern? By calling the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the WHO can call on a … Read More

Zika virus: an FAQ - Infectious Thoughts

Jan 26, 2016

A virus spread by mosquitoes and which has been linked to babies being born with smaller heads and brains in Brazil is making the news. Here’s a quick FAQ to bring you up to speed. What is Zika and where has it come from? Zika is an RNA virus that was first identified in monkeys in Uganda in 1947. The first human cases were reported in 1952 in Uganda and Tanzania. There were only a small number of reported cases after that, until the first documented outbreak in Yap in Micronesia in 2007. There was another outbreak in the Pacific in 2013. From the Pacific, Zika seems to have spread to the Americas via Easter Island, appearing in Brazil in April 2015. There is some mention online that Zika might have entered Brazil during the FIFA World Cup in 2014. Read More

Busting sexism in science - Infectious Thoughts

Dec 16, 2015

Science IS sexist. Fullstop. There is an abundance of evidence that it is more difficult for women working in science to get jobs, funding and published, just because they are women. So the question is, how are we going to fix the problem? Dr Nicola Gaston, Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Victoria University Wellington and former president of the New Zealand Association of Scientists, outlines the evidence for science being sexist in her excellent little book ‘Why Science is Sexist’, just published by Bridget Williams Books. She also outlines some pretty simple ideas for how to fix the problem, and they don’t just involve shoving more women into the ‘leaky’ pipeline. One simple suggestion is to get those with decision-making powers to become more aware of their unconscious biases. We see … Read More

A gift for someone special – Part IV - Infectious Thoughts

Dec 12, 2015

Almost a year ago, I wrote what would become three blog posts about my decision to become an egg donor, and the journey I went on that led to 11 of my ova being used to try to make a baby for someone special to me. So as 2015 draws to a close, I’m excited to announce that we made a baby! Despite just one of the 11 eggs making it into an embryo that was able to be implanted, that one little embryo was the 5% chance of success we faced a year ago. A healthy baby was recently born and we are all over the moon. All thanks to modern medicine, and a great job by the human incubator. A few people have been asking if I don’t feel a little weird about the whole thing. I did … Read More

Support science with these last minute Xmas gifts! - Infectious Thoughts

Dec 11, 2015

If you are looking for gifts that are a little different, and like the idea of supporting scientific research, then we have just the thing for you! This year I’ve worked with a number of artists and illustrators to make amazing artworks out of naturally glowing bacteria. The artworks may only last a day or two but we took photos of all the pieces and, thanks to RedBubble, you can get your favourite image on a mug, t-shirt, phone cover, skirt, and more. A portion of the proceeds from each sale goes to fund my lab’s unending appetite for petri-dishes! Check us out on RedBubble here, and see the artists at work, and their amazing pieces, in this great little video: Alternatively, you can contribute directly to my lab’s latest project: searching native New Zealand fungi for new … Read More