20 September 2016 – As yet another step forward in strengthening Singapore's defences against evolving infectious diseases, Tan Tock Seng Hospital's (TTSH) Institute of Infectious Disease & Epidemiology (IIDE) renewed its strategic alliance with Singapore Polytechnic (SP) today through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
The renewed partnership which extends for the next three years will see TTSH's infectious disease experts and SP's Centre of Biomedical and Life Sciences (CBLS) researchers further combine their expertise to create new diagnostic innovations that not only promote early detection, but also aid in the implementation of prevention and diagnostic measures.
A successful project under the previous MOU is the sequencing of multi-drug resistant superbugs. By sequencing the entire genome of a multi-drug resistant superbug, carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae or CPE for short, researchers from TTSH and SP have gained clues as to how the superbug spreads in healthcare settings such as hospitals.
The current MoU will focus on innovating and enhancing infection control practices. By determining transmission pathways of antibiotic-resistant superbug bacteria, infection control teams will be better able to halt transmission.
Another noteworthy diagnostic project, which was initiated in 2013, is the affordable rapid test kit for Dengue. Compared to the current Dengue tests which take a couple of hours to complete in a specialised laboratory, the easy-to-use test kit only takes 45 minutes to detect the Dengue virus in an individual. The test kit will enable general practitioners at clinics to better manage Dengue cases and thus alleviate some of the resources at the hospitals. The test kit has already undergone 24 months of laboratory testing at TTSH and has achieved an accuracy rate of 100%.
"Singapore like many other countries is constantly facing the threats of emerging pathogens. Given the constant global movement of populations, no epidemic is too far away from home. While we are always prepared and proactive in our response to impending threats, we must never rest on our laurels to constantly improve our processes and capabilities to protect our community. These collaborations are a huge step forward in halting infectious transmissions and making initial point of contact diagnoses simpler and accurate. Such detection capabilities just mean better appropriate and timely intervention and safeguard of public health" said Professor Leo Yee Sin, Director of IIDE.
The enhanced partnership also enhances the learning experience in clinical research by final year students from SP's Diploma in Biomedical Sciences (DBS) and Diploma in Biotechnology (DBT) courses. More students from both courses will continue to get a unique internship in the area of infectious disease clinical research at TTSH medical laboratories. Students will undergo a seven-month internship, working alongside industry professionals and researchers and gaining valuable clinical and industry insights.
Diploma in Biomedical Science graduate, Kelly Png, was among the first and only group of polytechnic students in Singapore to work on the HIV virus. As part of her internship with TTSH, Kelly and her classmates conducted research on the HIV gene obtained from newly infected patients. The outcome of their study was essential in helping doctors decide on effective drug combinations for the patient as well as to trace the relevant risk groups who are part of the HIV transmission chain.
"Through my internship, I realised that I could play an integral role in improving the quality of life. I hope to embark on a career in the healthcare or biomedical science industry when I graduate," said Kelly, who is currently pursuing a Degree in Pharmacy at the National University of Singapore.