ESR | Keeping people safe and healthy through science

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Jackie Wright

Jackie Wright is a senior scientist at ESR and the coordinator of our Enteric Reference and Leptospira Laboratories.

A medical laboratory scientist, Jackie specialises in microorganisms associated with zoonoses and enteric disease. Her team works on typing organisms for public health purposes and is currently using traditional phenotypic methods while at the same time transitioning to whole genome sequencing methods.

Jackie’s very broad work experience throughout primary, secondary and tertiary human health laboratories has provided research opportunities in both the personal and public health impacts of various diseases.  Throughout her professional life she has collaborated with other health professionals to collectively extend our knowledge on organism pathogenicity and disease risk factors thereby identifying interventions which will limit the spread of the disease and improve public health.

Her first collaboration with Public Health staff was in 1990, publishing a joint study reviewing Giardiasis in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. This led to a one year study of gastroenteritis in the same region (Wright JM. Gastrointestinal infection in a New Zealand Community: a one year study. Massey University 1996. (Thesis)). The aim was to look for a wide range of pathogens in all samples using a number of methods to determine true prevalence. As a result she isolated the first confirmed New Zealand case of verocytotoxin producing E coli (VTEC)O157 and found that some pathogens were more common than had been previously thought - contributing to the 1996 update of the New Zealand schedule of notifiable diseases (external link) .

Jackie then joined ESR where she collaborated with peers both internally and externally on Campylobacter, Salmonella VTEC and Yersiniae. A lifestyle change in the late 1990s saw Jackie move away from patient focussed work to enteric pathogen detection work in the commercial food sector before moving back to human diagnostic microbiology and quality. Jackie then undertook a 12 year stint multitasking in a small community laboratory where she found time to investigate non-enteric issues such as the Haematology of Hepatitis A and iron deficiency in toddlers caused by a diet of predominantly cows’ milk.  Jackie is now back at ESR fold and again at the helm of the Enteric lab dealing to the organisms she knows and loves.

Jackie also has an extensive background in laboratory quality and is focussed on ensuring that information gained from testing is both accurate and fit for purpose, as well as being reported in an easily interpreted format.

Outside of her work at ESR, Jackie takes a keen interest in water – having served three years on the Ashburton Water Zone Committee and being the custodian of a small community drinking water supply.