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Tuesday, 16 May 1972
Page: 1701

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

(1)   What research is being conducted by the Commonwealth Government or any of its instrumentalities into the problems of multiple sclerosis in Australia and huw much is the Commonwealth spending on such research.

(2)   Is the Minister aware that the Australian Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates that there are some 12,000 sufferers in Australia and that there is only one specialised clinic in Australia which can provide treatment for 16 sufferers only at the one time.

(3)   Is the Minister aware that an International Conference of Multiple Sclerosis Societies will be held in Brussels in September 1972.

(4)   Will the Minister consider recommending to the Government that a grant be made to the Australian Multiple Sclerosis Society to defray part of the costs to send representatives to the International Conference.

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Health) - The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1)   Although no Commonwealth Department or instrumentality is conducting research into multiple sclerosis, the Commonwealth is, through the National Health and Medical Research Council supporting two major research projects related to multiple sclerosis. These projects are in the fields of virology and immunology, which are the fields of research currently thought most likely to provide an indication of the cause of multiple sclerous. The projects are -

(a)   Research into reovirus infection: Department of Microbiology, University of Western Australia. The aim of this project is to determine how the body reacts to infection by reoviruses and, particularly, to study the relationship between reovirus infection and certain chronic diseases including multiple sclerosis.

The N.H. & M.R.C. grant for this work has been continuous since 1963 and, for 1972, the support of this unit is $32,965.

(b)   Research into auto-immune disease: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne.

This Institute has been receiving a N.H. A M.R.C. grant for many years. An important part of its research is the study of auto-immune disease and the possible role of auto-immunity in the causation of certain diseases including multiple sclerosis.

The total N.H. & M.R.C. support for the Institute for 1972 is $354,000.

As both these research projects are concerned with basic research, it is impossible to isolate the Amount spent by the Commonwealth on research into multiple sclerosis specifically.

(2)   I am aware that there are a large number of multiple sclerosis sufferers in Australia and that in Sydney, the Australian Multiple Sclerosis Society has a specialised treatment unit with limited facilities. In Melbourne, there is also a small nursing and domiciliary unit for patients with multiple sclerosis. In addition, many multiple sclerosis patients receive treatment in general rehabilitation units attached to public hospitals throughout Australia.

(3)   Yes

(4)   I am not aware that the Multiple Sclerosis Society has made application for such a grant. If any application is made by the Society, it will be given appropriate consideration.

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