Doc pi­o­neers dis­ease treat­ment

Sunday Territorian - - NEWS - By CONOR BYRNE

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

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