Doc pioneers disease treatment
A TERRITORY doctor has found a way to prevent people relapsing into the potentially deadly melioidosis, also known as Nightcliff gardener’s disease.
Dr Matthew Pitman, 32, has won the Top End Hospital Network junior doctor research awards for his work in the past three years.
The infectious diseases expert, of Tiwi, said he found that a longer intravenous treatment for people suffer- ing melioidosis could help combat the risk of relapse for the 50 per cent of patients who failed to complete lengthy oral therapy.
‘‘You see it all the time — patients stop (the oral dose) early or for those living in remote communities, followup treatment can be difficult,’’ Dr Pitman said.
Under his treatment regime, the relapse rate fell from 5.4 per cent to 0.5 per cent.
Royal Darwin Hospital has adopted the treatment plan, which could go international. used by several thousand drug dealers to distribute hundreds of kilograms of heroin, cocaine, LSD and other illegal drugs and illicit goods to more than 100,000 buyers around the world over the past2½ years.
‘‘ I presented this at the world melioidosis conference in Bangkok and it was well received,’’ Dr Pitman said.
‘‘ There may be further research into doing away with oral therapy.’’
The Top End has some of the world’s highest rates of the soil and air- borne disease.
Medical professionals have already reported nine cases this wet season.
People with low immune systems, diabetes, kidney diseases and lung diseases, as well as alcoholics, are most at risk of melioidosis.
‘‘We’ve a severe increase in melioidosis after storms,’’ Dr Pitman said, adding the average 30 cases a year almost tripled between 2009 and 2012.
He said there were many theories about what caused the spike, including perturbation of soil due to increased construction around Darwin.
Dr Pitman won $ 2500, which he will spend presenting his findings in Australia and Washington in the US.
Deadly Territory, P19
Under Dr Matthew Pitman’s new regime, the melioidosis relapse rate plummeted