My team uses cutting-edge technologies to better understand the biology of gastrointestinal parasites, including worms and agents of diarrhoeal disease.
Parasitic worms have a major impact in impoverished communities in tropical and subtropical regions globally. Diarrhoeal parasites impact heavily on these communities, but are also important in developed countries, including Australia.
We work with the Victorian water industry to develop tools to monitor for aquatic microorganisms that present a public health risk. We also conduct fundamental research into host-parasite interactions, parasite development, stress responses and drug resistance, with the ultimate goal of developing approaches to better control these parasites.
During the COVID-19 pandemic our team has played a key role in Victoria’s wastewater testing programs for SARS-CoV-2, including developing new methods used to confirm the presence of viral fragments in test positive samples and working with the Victorian Department of Health to determine how to use this information in the public health response. This program is also undertaking targeted surveillance for emerging, high-risk viral variants developing overseas, aiming to help prevent their introduction into Australia.
In this project stream, we use advanced sequencing and bioinformatics to understand how parasites respond to drugs at the molecular level and how these responses differ from those to heat, oxidative and other non-drug induced forms of stress.
We explore how these behaviours change as parasites (primarily Giardia duodenalis) develop drug resistance. The aim is to understand mechanisms of resistance to major antiparasitic drugs and, more generally, to identify general drug-induced responses that facilitate the development of drug resistance.
Ultimately, we use this information to guide efforts to develop new antiparasitic compounds.
We use genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic and epigenetic methods to explore the molecular biology underpinning parasite invasion of a new host, development within that host, and the methods by which the parasite interacts with and seeks to thwart the host immune attack against it.
This research project focuses primarily on human gastrointestinal helminthes, diarrhoeal pathogens (Giardia and Cryptosporidium) and relapsing malaria parasites (Plasmodium vivax).
This project stream focuses on the development and utilisation of molecular (primarily PCR-based) diagnostic tools for the rapid and specific identification and quantitation of gastrointestinal pathogens (helminths and diarrhoeal parasites) and select aquatic microorganisms (specific toxigenic and/or taste/odor compound producing cyanobacteria).
Within this research stream, we partner with the local Victorian water industry to test drinking, recreational and recycled water supplies for cyanobacteria that may reduce water quality or present a risk to the public or local wildlife.
This project stream is aimed at exploring and quantifying the importance of neglected gastrointestinal parasites in people in resource poor settings.
The current focus of this research is on evaluating the impact of gastrointestinal parasites on childhood health and development in Karen populations in refugee communities in northwest Thailand (Tha Song Yang region).
We will use PCR-based tools and microbiomic sequencing to support efforts to quantify the impact of gastrointestinal parasites in child health in the region. These will also assist in monitoring the effectiveness of a newly established childhood health intervention program aimed at controlling gastrointestinal infections and improving child health.