The Mueller Laboratory’s research interest is the interaction between infectious diseases and the human host. The lab has primarily focused on the malaria parasite Plasmodium with the addition of research on COVID-19 in recent years.
Within the malaria program of work the lab’s vision is to develop novel tools and interventions to aid malaria elimination. A focus of our research is on Plasmodium vivax, the parasite responsible for most malaria cases in Australia’s neigbours in the Asia-Pacific.
Aims of our research are to understand:
We are using this knowledge to monitor the impact of malaria control and to develop new interventions to treat malaria, prevent new infections and identify and target areas of high transmission risk. Our ultimate goal is to contribute to malaria elimination programs.
Within the COVID-19 program, we initiated and established a longitudinal Victorian COVID-19 cohort. The objective of this study is to gain a detailed understanding of:
In parallel, we are supporting health authorities in the Pacific with managing the COVID-19 pandemic by modelling different SARS-CoV-2 transmission scenarios and local progression of the pandemic.
Specifically within Australia, this modelling work contributed significantly to the re-opening strategy of Australia in late 2021.
A key recent finding of our laboratory has been the development of a new tool to identify hidden malaria parasites (Longley, White … Mueller 2020 Nature Medicine). Our novel strategy makes use of antibody markers of exposure and allows us to identify people with hidden parasites in their liver. We are working with local and international biotechnology companies to commercialise our research through development of a multi-analyte rapid diagnostic test.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, our laboratory initiated and has been leading a Victorian COVID-19 cohort study (COVID PROFILE) that has followed community members after infection and COVID-19 vaccination for up to 2.5 years. This cohort study is the basis for research projects across multiple laboratories within the institute and in the precinct.
COVID-19 modelling work during the pandemic from our laboratory, in collaboration with the Peter Doherty Institute, contributed significantly to the re-opening strategy of Australia in late 2021.
We are developing serological markers of recent exposure to malaria infections to aid elimination of this disease. We are doing so via the measurement of antibody responses in samples from cohort studies conducted in various malaria endemic regions around the world, along with the development of specialised diagnostic algorithms.
Team members: Led by Dr Rhea Longley along with Dr Ramin Mazhari, Dr Lauren Smith, Dr Julie Healer and Macie Lamont
We are utilising well-characterised epidemiological studies to support the discovery and validation of novel malaria vaccine candidates. People in malaria-endemic countries naturally gain immunity to clinical disease. We are investigating which proteins are good targets for a vaccine-induced protective immune response and how antibodies against these targets induce protection against clinical disease. Our recent studies focus on measurement of functional antibody responses.
Team members: Led by Dr Rhea Longley along with Dr Ramin Mazhari and Macie Lamont.
The COVID PROFILE study is designed to understand COVID-19 immunity in the Victorian community and was launched in October 2020. We have collected multiple different biospecimens from more than 150 participants at regular time points over 2.5 years. This will lead to improved understanding of immunity over time.
Led by: Dr Emily Eriksson
Team: Nicholas Kiernan-Walker, Dr Ramin Mazhari, Catherine Chen, Dr Eamon Conway.
Collaborating members: Anne Hart, Maureen Forde, together with the Bryant, Bowden, Coussens, Tye-Din, and Groom Laboratories
This project involves the modelling and quantitative analyses of infectious diseases, including COVID-19 and malaria, in Australia and the Asia-Pacific to aid in disease prevention, control, and elimination. For example, this work has included the investigation of COVID-19 epidemiology, transmission, acquisition, and waning of both vaccine-induced and naturally acquired immunity to SARS-CoV-2. The results of these scenario models have been used to inform COVID-19 policies in Australia and in the South Pacific countries.
Team members: Prof Ivo Mueller, Dr Eamon Conway, Dr Lauren Smith, Logan Wu, and Yasmine McDonough
This project involves understanding of autoreactive (both humoral and cellular) immune responses after SARS-CoV-2 infection. As part of this project, a novel, customised serological assay has been developed that enables measurement of autoantibodies in plasma and/or serum. Findings from this project may lead to identification of individuals that are at risk of long-term and/or future complications.
Led by: Dr Emily Eriksson
Team members: Catherine Chen, Prof Ivo Mueller, Dr Eamon Conway, and Yasmine McDonough
Using samples collected as part of the COVID PROFILE study, this project comprehensively investigates longitudinal immune responses. We have adapted a Luminex-based multiplex serological assay to enable measurement of SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody levels and are also measuring T cell responses over time after primary infection, vaccination and in some cases after re-infection.
Led by: Dr Emily Eriksson
Team members: Prof Ivo Mueller, Dr Eamon Conway, Dr Ramin Mazhari, Nicholas Kiernan-Walker
We are using advanced sequencing technologies and a systems biology approach to gain important insights into the biology of Plasmodium vivax. Improving our molecular understanding of Plasmodium vivax biology is critical to developing novel strategies for control and elimination efforts. In our lab, we use long and short-read sequencing technologies to study both the DNA and RNA of Plasmodium vivax to answer outstanding questions specific to this parasite’s biology.
Team members: Caitlin Bourke, Dr Shazia Ruybal-Pesántez (currently Imperial College London), Dr Myo Naung (currently Baker Institute Melbourne)
Collaborating with: Jex and Bahlo laboratories as well as researchers from Institut Pasteur Cambodia, University of Georgia, Menzies School of Health Research, Deakin University, Burnet Institute, Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Institut Pasteur Paris.
Our team collaborates very closely with scientists in malaria-endemic countries including: the PNG Institute of Medical Research (PNG), the Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University (Thailand), the Fundação De Medicina Tropical Doutor Heitor Vieira Dourado (Brazil), the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (the Philippines), the University of Indonesia, Oxford University Clinical Research Unit-Indonesia and the Exeins Health Institute (Indonesia), Institut Pasteur Cambodia (Cambodia), NAMRU6 (Peru).
We also collaborate with numerous labs within WEHI as well as elsewhere in Australia, Europe, Asia and the US.
WEHI collaborators include the Jex Lab, Bahlo Lab, Pasricha Lab, Cowman Lab, Tham Lab, Boddey Lab, Coussens Lab, Bryant Lab, Groom Lab, Tye-Din Lab, Bowden Lab, and Allan Lab.
Key collaborating institutes in Australia include the Burnet Institute, the Doherty Institute, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the School of Population and Global Health University of Melbourne, Monash University, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and the Menzies School of Health Research.
We work closely with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK, the Institute Pasteur Paris in France, Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, the Foundation for Tropical Medicine in Manaus and Ehime University in Japan.