Could the bugs that cause legionnaires’ disease, a common illness here in Canterbury, be responsible for another common and severe lung condition?

Dr Michael Maze suspects the answer is yes, and it’s the subject of his latest research which has received a $73,586 grant from the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation.

A specialist in respiratory and infectious diseases, Dr Michael Maze’s research will look at whether legionella bacteria are also responsible for pleural infections, a life-threatening condition in which fluid builds up between the lungs and chest.

“The grant from the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation has come at just the right time and will be critically important at catalysing research into pleural infection in Canterbury,” says Dr Maze.

Currently doctors only identify the bacteria responsible for pleural infection in 60% of cases.

Michael Maze

“We think that’s because bacteria that are difficult to grow, such as legionella, might be responsible. As Canterbury has some of the highest rates of legionnaires’ disease in the world, we’re in the ideal place to test our theory so we can help guide doctors’ antibiotic choices and help patients recover.”

Through the research, the team will find the bacteria responsible for pleural infection by looking for their DNA in fluid using PCR testing. The research will then follow affected patients for 12 months after diagnosis to better understand the effects of the disease and the recovery process.

“Our research team has a track record investigating pneumonia and this grant from the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation allows us to extend our expertise towards this important associated disease. 

“Our findings will support more targeted treatment for pleural disease, help patients understand what to expect from their diagnosis and guide our how health system to best support their recovery.” 

Dr Maze is a Respiratory Physician at Te Whatu Ora – Waitaha Canterbury and a senior lecturer at the University of Otago, Christchurch. He has a PhD from the University of Otago and qualifications from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. More information can be found here.

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