Professor Marylouise McLaws

My Expertise

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

Field of Research (FoR)

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Mary-Louise is a 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.  For several years she was a short mission World Health Organization Advisor to China and Malaysia for surveillance development. She collaborated with Beijing to review the response to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak and...view more

Mary-Louise is a 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.  For several years she was a short mission World Health Organization Advisor to China and Malaysia for surveillance development. 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. Mary-Louise provided advise for 9 years to the WHO Clean Care is Safer Care Challenge program. 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.  

• Deputy President Academic Board 
• UNSW Global Water Institute - Water - Health Leader  Institutional Biosafety Committee
• UNSW Institutional Biosafety Committee


• 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 $920,000

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 $1.445mill

2011 Regional Emerging Diseases Intervnetion 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.

NHMRC, ARC $768,250

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.

UNSW $20,000

2006 UNSW Faculty Research Grant Program. Examiantion 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 Technical Advisor to Infection Prevention and Control Global Unit

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 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 outrbeak 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 standardized 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 Australia's Research Field Leader, Health & Medical Sciences in the Field: 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 
  • Safe removal of non sterile gloves in clinical from contact precautions

Completed projects

  • 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