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About the lab

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:

  • which people in malaria-affected communities are getting infected with Plasmodium parasites?
  • which people are at high risk of getting sick with malaria and what factors contribute to this?
  • how do hidden P. vivax parasites that cause relapses of disease contribute to the burden of infection, morbidity, and transmission?
  • how do we identify people at the highest risk of P. vivax relapse and can we prevent these relapses through appropriate treatment?

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:

  • the longevity of immune responses following infection and COVID-19 vaccinations
  • immunological factors associated with long-term complications following infection
  • autoreactive immune responses associated with infection

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.

Impact

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.

Lab research projects

Lab team

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.

21 members
Maulina Hafidzah
Masters Student (by coursework)
Hanqing Zhao
PhD Student
Huy Van
Research Assistant
Dr Robert James
PhD Student
Felicia Bongiovanni
PhD Student
Jacob Cumming
Masters Student (by coursework
Anju Abraham
Research Assistant
Logan Wu
PhD Student
Ashleigh Gould
Visiting PhD Student
Catherine Chen
PhD Student
Dulcie Lautu
PhD Student
Yasmine McDonough
Research Assistant
Research Officer
Senior Research Officer
Nick Kiernan-Walker
Research Assistant
Senior Research Scientist (Laboratory)
Dr Emily Eriksson
Senior Research Officer
Dr Julie Healer
Program Manager
Dr Ramin Mazhari
Senior Research Officer
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