Biography

Associate Professor Vitali Sintchenko is a leading public health microbiologist and informatician who conducts research on biosurveillance of communicable diseases. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia and the Australian College of Health Informatics. As Director of the CIDM-Public Health (a translational research hub funded by NSW Health), he leads a public health and diagnostic microbiology team working toward improving laboratory and epidemiological investigations of communicable diseases. The team also is developing sophisticated epidemiological tools to accurately predict the behaviour and modes of transmission of microbial pathogens and identify the source of disease outbreaks. He notes, “we want to detect outbreaks early enough for control measures to be useful, for timely prevention of spread. We are studying and implementing genomics-guided surveillance of respiratory, food-borne and other bacterial diseases with epidemic potential (e.g. tuberculosis; pertussis; pneumococcal pneumonia; Salmonella gastroenteritis; MRSA infections). By linking pathogen genomics and informatics with epidemiological context and clinical data, we make conclusions regarding the transmission and spread of outbreaks”. He adds, “supported by the infrastructure of Mycobacterium, Enteric and Pneumococcal Reference Laboratories at Westmead and the Marie Bashir Institute, the genomics program is revolutionising outbreak surveillance by providing new information on transmission chains including risk factors, modes of transmission, geography and timeline of spread, and identification of ‘superspreaders’ and transmission ‘hotspots’ ”. Renowned for his informatics research, Associate Professor Sintchenko has authored seminal publications in the field and has published the world’s first book on infectious disease informatics with >10,000 copies sold. He is Chair of the Commonwealth Public Health Laboratory Network.

Keywords

Tuberculosis, Microbiology, Informatics, Public health microbiology

Themes

Infection and Immunological Conditions

Research Focus

Associate Professor Sintchenko leads a broad-ranging translational research program related to biosurveillance of bacterial diseases that are important to public health, with the aim of advancing laboratory-based surveillance and the prevention, control and management of these diseases. The work includes studies on biosurveillance, molecular diagnostics and epidemiology of pathogens with epidemic potential, and development and evaluation of decision analysis and decision support tools and programs.

Associate Professor Sintchenko has made significant contributions to the field with his work published in top-ranked journals including Nature, Lancet Infectious Diseases and Clinical Infectious Diseases. His paper [Nature Microbiology Reviews 2007] on an innovative approach to pathogen profiling using phenotype-based methods with DNA sequencing, proteomics and sequence-based typing, has enhanced the understanding of transmission patterns and dynamics of epidemics.

“I am driven by health outcomes rather than discoveries of gene functions”, he says. “Current surveillance systems can be slow, reactive and typically only detect large outbreaks of infectious diseases, often when the outbreak is already declining/tapering. Consequently, we are using the innovative approach of combining genomic-guided surveillance with syndromic surveillance and a multitude of additional clinical and epidemiological information, to increase the sensitivity, specificity and timeliness of detection and tracking of pathogens with epidemic potential, to detect outbreaks early and to enable our public health colleagues to mount an effective response. The funding provided by NSW Health and the infrastructure of Westmead Hospital and the MBI are invaluable for our efforts at capacity building to track disease outbreaks such as tuberculosis, pertussis and food-borne bacterial illnesses. Our aim is to develop scalable surveillance and tracking systems that are useful to epidemiologists, clinicians and pathologists”.

Other Affiliations

Sydney Medical School > Westmead Clinical School > Westmead Clinical School

Awards and Recognition

  • 2007 – NHMRC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship
  • 2011 – NHMRC Career Development Award

Education

  • MBBS, Chernivtsi, Ukraine
  • PhD, Medical Informatics, UNSW Australia, Sydney