University of Western Australia
Respiratory infections are the most common cause of hospitalisation for Australian children, while middle ear infections are the most common reason for GPs to prescribe antibiotics. In addition, Aboriginal children are 7 times more likely to be hospitalised with chest infections and experience the highest rate of severe middle ear infections worldwide.
Dr Ruth Thornton’s work aims to understand why some children and adults are more susceptible to infections and to identify mechanisms of bacterial persistence. She was among the first to demonstrate that bacteria can protect themselves from antibiotics and the immune system by persisting within cells and polymicrobial biofilms in the ears of children with chronic problems. This discovery has already lead to a paradigm shift and the clinical trial of a new treatment.
In 2013 Ruth was the WA state winner and a national finalist in the Fresh Science Awards, and actively engaged the media and public on the issue of her research. She has been involved in events with the Telethon Kids Institute and continues to disseminate her research findings to healthcare practitioners, parents and children.