It has been recognised for many years that stroke patients are prone to infections, but very little is known about where these infections come from. Traditionally, infections were assumed to come about because of the patient’s immobility and the hospital environment they are in. Research from Dr Wong’s laboratory has shown that stroke not only damages the brain but also directly weakens the immune system in such a way that the “bad” bacteria in the intestines can escape and travel to other organs to cause fatal infections. Gut bacteria, taking advantage of the weakened immune system of a stroke patient is a huge concern, especially if the gut bacteria are antibiotic-resistant. Her research has revealed an important role for the gut in patients who develop infections after stroke, and could trigger a change in stroke patient management in hospitals and reduce the overuse of ineffective antibiotics.
While in Canada, Connie participated in community engagement events for the donors and volunteers of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. After returning to Australia, she was interviewed on the ABC’s “The World Today”. More recently, her work was featured in the Herald Sun and Monash Leader. She also organised and spoken at the community-oriented Day of Immunology.