From Ebola to cat poo parasites – the eyes have it

Justine Smith_FlindersWP
Professor Justine Smith, who hit the headlines for her work on Ebola in the eye, will give the first ‘Flinders Investigators’ lecture on Wednesday at Flinders, Victoria Square.

The recent discovery that the Ebola virus can live on in a patient’s eyeballs long after they’re “cured” made the world blink in horror – but did you know cat faeces and raw meat can similarly lodge nasties in the eyes, and that they’re not the only source of danger?

This Wednesday, (24 June) world-renowned vision scientist Professor Justine Smith will explore the parasites that threaten our eyes at a bold new free public lecture series by Flinders University.

While pregnant women have long known that cat faeces and undercooked meat are a risk to their unborn children, Professor Smith says the parasite behind these infections, toxoplasmosis, can be contracted in many other ways – and once you have it, there’s no getting rid of it.

Infecting one-third of the world’s population, and at least one in five Australians, toxoplasma most commonly leads to uveitis, a serious inflammation of the retina that can lead to permanent vision loss.

Professor Smith, who has just received international recognition with her election to the Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis (AOI), will reveal the risks, and the challenges, facing those treating toxoplasma infection as the inaugural speaker at Flinders University’s “Flinders Investigators” lecture series. (Wednesday, June 24, Adelaide CBD)

The “Flinders Investigators” lectures are an opportunity for anyone with the itch of curiosity to hear all about Flinders’ world-changing research, directly from the experts at the cutting edge.

From Ebola in the eyes, to paradigm shattering archaeological discoveries, to advanced solar power, Flinders has marshalled an exciting array of high-profile researchers working at the forefront of some of the most challenging health, social and technological issues of our times.

This engaging, and free, series aims to both inform and inspire anyone with a burning interest in knowing more about the world around them.

About Professor Justine Smith

Professor Smith is a Research Strategic Professor at Flinders University, Principal Research Fellow at SAHMRI and Future Fellow of the Australian Research Council.

Through her research, important discoveries on the mechanisms of infectious uveitis have been made, while laboratory research and clinical trials led by her have established the use of biologic drugs to reduce vision loss from non-infectious uveitis.

In May this year, she co-authored a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which found that live Ebola virus was present in a patient’s eye fluid 10 weeks after the virus was no longer detectable in the patient’s blood.

This discovery has major implications for the treatment of Ebola – the disease which caused fears of a worldwide epidemic – by showing that patients who survive it could still be carrying the virus after their symptoms have subsided.

Professor Smith is a strong advocate for medical research across the globe, most recently in her role as President of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the largest global society for eye and vision research, with an 80-year history and 12,500 members in 75 countries.

The inaugural Flinders Investigators Lecture: Visionary Research: Demystifying Toxoplasmosis and its effect on vision and in pregnancy 

Date: Wed, 24 Jun 2015

Time: 5:30PM – 7:30PM

Location: Room 1, Level 1, Flinders University Victoria Square, 182 Victoria Square, Adelaide.

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