Emeritus Professor Marylouise McLaws

My Expertise

Infection prevention and control, surveillance, hospital infection, outbreaks, patient safety

Fields of Research (FoR)

Epidemiology, Infectious Diseases, Medical Microbiology, Medical Infection Agents (incl. Prions), Intensive Care, Public Health and Health Services

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Mary-Louise is an epidemiologist with expertise in hospital infection and infectious diseases control. Her COVID-19 related activities include: member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Program Experts Advisory Panel for Infection Prevention and Control Preparedness, Readiness and Response to COVID-19 and member of the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission COVID Infection Prevention and Control taskforce. She is the Focal...view more

Mary-Louise is an epidemiologist with expertise in hospital infection and infectious diseases control. Her COVID-19 related activities include: member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Program Experts Advisory Panel for Infection Prevention and Control Preparedness, Readiness and Response to COVID-19 and member of the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission COVID Infection Prevention and Control taskforce. She is the Focal Point for the WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) in the School of Population Health.  

She was a short missions World Health Organization Advisor to China and Malaysia during the development of national hospital infection surveillance. Mary-Louise was a member of the WHO Clean Care is Safer Care Challenge program that developed and trial the guideline. She collaborated with Beijing to review the response to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak and healthcare worker safety for the Hong Kong SARS designated hospital. She was commissioned by the Commonwealth to review the Pandemic Influenza Infection Control Guidelines for evidence of protection for healthcare workers. 

As Honorary Advisor to the Clinical Excellence Commission for many years she collaborated on several state-wide patient safety interventions including: improving hand hygiene in healthcare care workers, reducing central line associated bloodstream infections and detecting and treating sepsis early in patients presenting to emergency departments.  Her research has included performing the seminal Australian survey of healthcare associated infections in 1984 and developing the first surveillance system for healthcare associated infections as a pilot in 1998-2001 for the NSW Health Department. She enjoys capacity building PhD candidates and performing infection control research in Cambodia, China, Bangladesh, Mali, Indonesia, Iran, Viet Nam, Taiwan and Turkey.  

Current Academic Appointments
Deputy President Academic Board 
UNSW Global Water Institute: Water-Health Leader Institutional Biosafety Committee
UNSW Institutional Biosafety Committee

Current External Appointments

Steering Committee Member: University Social Responsibility Network

Previous Academic Appointments

Academic Board Professorial member

Vice-Chancellor's Childcare Support Fund for Women Researchers

Faculty Higher Degrees Committee

Faculty Research Student Sub Committee

Director School Research Degree Students

Director Public Health Program

Director Graduate Health Services Management Hong Kong Programs


My Grants

Industry funding  

2013-2015 Deb Australia "Development of an Automated Hand Hygiene Surveillance System

2015 Deb Australia, Johnson and Johnson. Development of a video for visitors about healthcare workers' hand hygiene 

2012-2014 Sigma Sustainablity. Cybernetics for infection control

2012 GoJo. Environmental contamination 

2010-2012 Whiteley Industries. Consumer Fatigue of hand hygiene in healthcare workers

Ministries of Health and NGOs  

2011 Regional Emerging Diseases Intervention Centre Singapore. Training infection control practitioners in Vietnam in the World Health Organization “My five moments for hand hygiene” 

2008 Australian Commonwealth Department Health & Ageing. Review and develop algorithm for the protection of healthcare workers from pandemic influenza for various occupational settings 

2005-06 Health Research Foundation South Western Sydney AHS. Community methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus: changing features of an escalating epidemic

2004-05 Health Research Foundation South Western Sydney AHS. The significance of bloodstream infections with Vancomycin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus

2003-05; 1999-02 QLD Health. Study of  Post-Discharge Surgical Site Infection: the Efficacy of Patient Self-Assessment of infection; Methodologies for the collection of surgical site infection that manifest post-discharge 

2002-03 Hong Kong Hospital Authority. Clinician Managers & The Intersection with Human Resources in Hong Kong Public Hospitals: Post-SARS Crisis Management for Infectious Diseases Workshop

1998-00 NSW Health. Development and Implementation of a Hospital Infection Standardised Surveillance system pilot project for public hospital.


2009-12 NHMRC. RCT comparing the effects of tap water vs normal saline on the infection and healing rates of wounds

2009-11 ARC Linkage. Economic, Social and Cross cultural issues in non pharmaceutical protection of front line responders to pandemic influenza and emerging infections.


2006 UNSW Faculty Research Grant Program. Examination of the link between healthcare associated infection and the built environment

My Qualifications


Australian Epidemiology Association Foundation member

Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology

Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases

European Society for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases 

Hospital Infection Society UK 

Society for Healthcare Epidemiologist of America

Current Appointments

World Health Organization Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network - focal point

Clinical Excellence Commission  Standing Committee on Healthcare Associated Infection 

Journal Boards  2006 - International Journal Clinical Governance 

     2012-2015; 2017- American Journal of Infection Control  

     2017 -   Journal of Hospital Infection  

Completed Appointments

  • World Health Organization Technical Advisor to Infection Prevention and Control Global Unit
  • World Health Organization Core Group - Components to Infection Control Programs 
  • World Health Organization Core Group - First Global Patient Safety Challenge: Clean Care is Safer Care 
  • World Health Organization Advisor - Malaysian Ministry of Health national surveillance for healthcare associated infections 
  • World Health Organization Advisor- Chinese Ministry of Health national patient safety accreditation 
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome reviewer - Beijing Bureau of Health Beijing outbreak response & Hong Kong SARS Designated hospital
  • Clinical Excellence Commission Advisor to state wide patient safety projects; Standing Committee on Healthcare Associated Infection 
  • Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing appointed reviewer of "Pandemic Influenza Infection Control for Healthcare workers Guidelines"
  • Principal Investigator First standardised surveillance system for healthcare associated infections  
  • Principal investigator First study of healthcare associated infections in Australian hospitals
  • Principal investigator First study of automated surveillance of hand hygiene compliance in the Australian healthcare system

My Awards

2020 Australian Research, Health & Medical Sciences. Field Leader: Epidemiology 

2017 Medical Journal of Australia/MDA Best Research Publication  "SEPSIS KILLS: early intervention saves lives."

2016 Global Sepsis Alliance Award  Government category. Burrell A, McLaws ML, Fullick M, Sullivan R, Sindhusake D. SEPSIS KILLS: early intervention saves lives. Med J Aust doi: 10.5694/mja15.00657

2016 Excellence in Postgraduate research supervision SPHCM UNSW Medicine  

2010 Excellence in Postgraduate Research Supervision SPHCM UNSW Medicine  

2013 Best Paper of the month UNSW Medicine. Successful Implementation of the WHO Multimodal Hand Hygiene Promotion Strategy across Facilities Worldwide. Lancet Infectious Diseases 2013; 13:843-51.

2010 Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America Leadership Pin

2009 Peter Baume Public Health Impact Highly Commended Prize SPHCM UNSW 

2009 Top 10 cited Elsevier publications for 2006-2008. Behavioural considerations for hand hygiene practices: the basic building blocks.

2005 Clinical Scientific Paper 2nd Prize Congress of the World Federation of Societies of Intensive and Critical Care Medicine.

1999 Baxter-Australian Healthcare Association Healthcare Innovation Award

My Research Activities

 Current projects

  • Wastewater epidemiology for health 

Completed projects

  • Irrational use of gloves on the ward
  • Factors Influencing Irrational Antibiotic use in Cambodia
  • Improving infection prevention and hand hygiene in Vietnamese teaching hospitals
  • Establishing appropriate statistical analysis for infection control data
  • Hepatitis C virus infection control in hemodialysis patients with end-stage renal disease, Vietnam
  • Improving hand hygiene compliance in hospital based physicians 
  • Respiratory infection prevention strategies during clinical practice 
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Infection control for patients under contact precautions
Q&A with Professor Mary-Louise McLaws from UNSW Medicine about COVID-19 and how it compares to SARS and when we can expect a vaccine.
Challenging the dogma of glove use for contact precaution in Australia
Q&A with Professor Mary-Louise McLaws: Coronavirus