Category Archives: The Wandering Microbiologist

“Flu in Kathmandu”

When I was offered the chance to go to a WHO influenza meeting in Kathmandu, I grabbed it with both hands. Such opportunities certainly don’t come by every day…

However the trip to Nepal did not get off to the best of starts.

On the flight to Kathmandu, I started to get toothache. By the time we landed I was in agony. The pain was compounded by the fact that my suitcase didn’t make the connection at Singapore. Ouch!

Things could only get better…

However my initial impressions of Kathmandu did little to lift my spirits. There were three power cuts in the first 24 hours, apparently a hangover from the 2015 earthquake. I had to pass on coffee in my hotel room as the tapwater had a distinct greeny brown tinge to it. I then attempted to do some initial exploration of the city on foot, but crossing roads in this city is not for the faint-hearted! Eventually fatigue and my nerves got the better of me and I retreated to the safer confines of my hotel room, wondering just what I had got myself into…

But things did eventually improve (as they almost always do!). The conference started the next day and it was good to focus for a change on just one microbiological subject (influenza) for two and a half days, as this allowed the acquisition of some in-depth knowledge. It was also good to speak to representatives from countries that I have very little knowledge of and have certainly never met anybody from before , i.e.  Timor Leste, Mongolia, Bhutan. The Nepalese people themselves were very friendly and as most of them knew a little bit of English, it was easy to strike up a conversation.

And my suitcase eventually turned up, albeit the day before I was due to leave (carry-on bag next time!). As for my toothache, the hotel concierge kept me going with a steady supply of paracetamol, which took the edge off the pain and allowed me to function. I fear a visit to the dentist will be required though on return to NZ.

The highlight of the whole trip was the final day visit of local hospitals, public health laboratories, and the Nepal National Influenza Centre. This was a fantastic opportunity to meet local laboratory professionals, and to discuss what particular challenges they faced in a sometimes challenging environment. I was extremely impressed at the systems they had in place.

“Lab and hospital tour in Kathmandu”

So despite the challenges the trip turned out to be hugely educational, both in an academic and cultural sense. I learnt a good deal about Influenza, and even more about Nepal. It is very different to New Zealand! I look forward to going back there one day,  hopefully to do some trekking in the Himalayas.

And I have made a new resolution:- to attend at least one microbiology conference a year in a place I have never been to before, even if I have to pay for it myself.



“Boston Tea Party”

I like a party, but am not very fond of tea….

I am currently en route to Boston for the ASM/ Microbe conference. I have never been to Boston before, nor have I attended a conference in the USA, so really looking forward to it. Maybe I will come across some characters as described in this post!

I think when you go to a conference as big as this, with lots of parallel sessions and sideshows, you need to have a very clear idea of what you want to focus on before you go. Otherwise it is very easy to suffer information overload.

Therefore my objectives are as follows:

  • Improve my knowledge of antibiotic stewardship.
  • Find out what future innovations are being planned for the Kiestra TLA
  • Become really familiar with the current Rapid PCR platforms and their test profiles.

Anything else is a bonus. 

And I certainly hope to see plenty of Boston as well.

So no more blog posts for the next week. Look forward to getting down to some serious writing when I return, hopefully with the batteries recharged, and with lots of new ideas!



I have just been filling in application forms for Parisian schools for the children, in French.

I have been learning French for about 18 months, in preparation for the move to Paris. I know a bit of French now, possibly even enough for a slow speed conversation on something not too complex!

However using it for something functional such as filling in forms is a different matter altogether.

I have enormous respect for laboratory workers (and any other Healthcare Worker for that matter) who have learnt not only to communicate, but to work in their non-native tongue. This must require a lot of determination and hard work.

Working and living using another language will be a real challenge for me and I am inspired by those people I know who have done it already.


p.s. No posts this weekend, off camping!