We aim to study malaria host-parasite interactions with a particular focus on gaining a better understanding of:
These questions are being addressed with a range of population-based studies in malaria-affected regions of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, Cambodia and Brazil that combine well-designed epidemiological and clinical studies with in-depth molecular, immunological and systems biology studies of host-parasite interactions.
More recently we have extended into studying COVID-19 infection. Leveraging our experience from malaria serology, we have developed novel approached to COVID-19 sero-surveillance and are studying the acquisition and maintenance of immunity to SARS-CoV-2 infections.
In parallel, we are supporting health authorities in the Pacific with planning for and managing the COVID-19 pandemic by modelling different SARS-CoV-2 transmission scenarios and development of analytical tools to monitor the local progression of the pandemic.
Switzerland, University of Neuchâtel, MSc (Statistics), 1998
Switzerland, University of Basel, PhD (Epidemiology), 2000
2019 Winner Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research, Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre
Prof Ivo Mueller, Dr Rhea Longley, along with Prof Wai-Hong Tham, A/Prof Leanne Robinson, Dr Michael White (Institut Pasteur, Paris).
This prize is awarded for outstanding infectious diseases research that benefits, or has the potential to benefit, human health.
2023-2027 NHMRC Investigator Grants Leadership 3 (L3) APP2016726: “P. vivax Serology Testing & Treatment: a novel intervention to facilitate malaria elimination” (CIA Mueller)
2023-2025 NHMRC Development Grant APP2022674: “Development of a Plasmodium vivax multi-analyte lateral flow assay to accelerate malaria elimination” (CIA Mueller)
2021-2025 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (USA) INV024368: “P vivax Serology for Elimination Partnership (VISPA)” (Overall Program Director)
2017-2024 National Institutes of Health (USA) 1 U19 AI129392-01: “Understanding, tracking and eliminating malaria transmission in the Asia – Pacific Region” (Overall Program Director and Project Leader Project 1 and Core A)
2020-2023 NHMRC Development Grant APP1171795: “Development of a novel point-of-care Plasmodium vivax dot-matrix antibody test to accelerate malaria elimination” (CIA Mueller)
2019-2023 NHMRC Research Fellowship Grant Principal Research Fellowship (PRF) APP1155075.
Longley RJ, Grigg MJ, Schoffer K, Obadia T, Hyslop S, Piera KA, Nekkab N, Mazhari R, Takashima E, Tsuboi T, Harbers M, Tetteh K, Drakeley C, Chitnis CE, Healer J, Tham WH, Sattabongkot J, White MT, Cooper DJ, Rajahram GS, Barber BE, William T, Anstey NM, Mueller I. Plasmodium vivax malaria serological exposure markers: Assessing the degree and implications of cross-reactivity with P. knowlesi. Cell Rep Med. 2022 Jun 21;3(6):100662. doi: 10.1016/j.xcrm.2022.100662. PMID: 35732155; PMCID: PMC9245056.
Obadia T, Nekkab N, Robinson LJ, Drakeley C, Mueller I, White MT. Developing sero-diagnostic tests to facilitate Plasmodium vivax Serological Test-and-Treat approaches: modeling the balance between public health impact and overtreatment. BMC Med. 2022 Mar 18;20(1):98. doi: 10.1186/s12916-022-02285-5. PMID: 35300700; PMCID: PMC8932240.
Nekkab N, Lana R, Lacerda M, Obadia T, Siqueira A, Monteiro W, Villela D, Mueller I, White M. Estimated impact of tafenoquine for Plasmodium vivax control and elimination in Brazil: A modelling study. PLoS Med. 2021 Apr 23;18(4):e1003535. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003535. PMID: 33891582; PMCID: PMC8064585.
Longley RJ, White MT, Takashima E, Brewster J, Morita M, Harbers M, Obadia T, Robinson LJ, Matsuura F, Liu ZSJ, Li-Wai-Suen CSN, Tham WH, Healer J, Huon C, Chitnis CE, Nguitragool W, Monteiro W, Proietti C, Doolan DL, Siqueira AM, Ding XC, Gonzalez IJ, Kazura J, Lacerda M, Sattabongkot J, Tsuboi T, Mueller I. Development and validation of serological markers for detecting recent Plasmodium vivax infection. Nat Med. 2020 May;26(5):741-749. doi: 10.1038/s41591-020-0841-4. Epub 2020 May 11. PMID: 32405064.
White MT, Walker P, Karl S, Hetzel MW, Freeman T, Waltmann A, Laman M, Robinson LJ, Ghani A, Mueller I. Mathematical modelling of the impact of expanding levels of malaria control interventions on Plasmodium vivax. Nat Commun. 2018 Aug 17;9(1):3300. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05860-8. PMID: 30120250; PMCID: PMC6097992.
França CT, White MT, He WQ, Hostetler JB, Brewster J, Frato G, Malhotra I, Gruszczyk J, Huon C, Lin E, Kiniboro B, Yadava A, Siba P, Galinski MR, Healer J, Chitnis C, Cowman AF, Takashima E, Tsuboi T, Tham WH, Fairhurst RM, Rayner JC, King CL, Mueller I. Identification of highly-protective combinations of Plasmodium vivax recombinant proteins for vaccine development. Elife. 2017 Sep 26;6:e28673. doi: 10.7554/eLife.28673. PMID: 28949293; PMCID: PMC5655538.
Robinson LJ, Wampfler R, Betuela I, Karl S, White MT, Li Wai Suen CS, Hofmann NE, Kinboro B, Waltmann A, Brewster J, Lorry L, Tarongka N, Samol L, Silkey M, Bassat Q, Siba PM, Schofield L, Felger I, Mueller I. Strategies for understanding and reducing the Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium ovale hypnozoite reservoir in Papua New Guinean children: a randomised placebo-controlled trial and mathematical model. PLoS Med. 2015 Oct 27;12(10):e1001891. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001891. PMID: 26505753; PMCID: PMC4624431.
Koepfli C, Robinson LJ, Rarau P, Salib M, Sambale N, Wampfler R, Betuela I, Nuitragool W, Barry AE, Siba P, Felger I, Mueller I. Blood-Stage Parasitaemia and Age Determine Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax Gametocytaemia in Papua New Guinea. PLoS One. 2015 May 21;10(5):e0126747. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126747. PMID: 25996916; PMCID: PMC4440770.
Waltmann A, Darcy AW, Harris I, Koepfli C, Lodo J, Vahi V, Piziki D, Shanks GD, Barry AE, Whittaker M, Kazura JW, Mueller I. High Rates of Asymptomatic, Sub-microscopic Plasmodium vivax Infection and Disappearing Plasmodium falciparum Malaria in an Area of Low Transmission in Solomon Islands. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2015 May 21;9(5):e0003758. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003758. PMID: 25996619; PMCID: PMC4440702.
Unger HW, Ome-Kaius M, Wangnapi RA, Umbers AJ, Hanieh S, Suen CS, Robinson LJ, Rosanas-Urgell A, Wapling J, Lufele E, Kongs C, Samol P, Sui D, Singirok D, Bardaji A, Schofield L, Menendez C, Betuela I, Siba P, Mueller I, Rogerson SJ. Sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine plus azithromycin for the prevention of low birthweight in Papua New Guinea: a randomised controlled trial. BMC Med. 2015 Jan 16;13:9. doi: 10.1186/s12916-014-0258-3. PMID: 25591391; PMCID: PMC4305224.
Stanisic DI, Fowkes FJ, Koinari M, Javati S, Lin E, Kiniboro B, Richards JS, Robinson LJ, Schofield L, Kazura JW, King CL, Zimmerman P, Felger I, Siba PM, Mueller I, Beeson JG. Acquisition of antibodies against Plasmodium falciparum merozoites and malaria immunity in young children and the influence of age, force of infection, and magnitude of response. Infect Immun. 2015 Feb;83(2):646-60. doi: 10.1128/IAI.02398-14. Epub 2014 Nov 24. PMID: 25422270; PMCID: PMC4294228.
Mueller I, Schoepflin S, Smith TA, Benton KL, Bretscher MT, Lin E, Kiniboro B, Zimmerman PA, Speed TP, Siba P, Felger I. Force of infection is key to understanding the epidemiology of Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Papua New Guinean children. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jun 19;109(25):10030-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1200841109. Epub 2012 Jun 4. PMID: 22665809; PMCID: PMC3382533.
Senn N, Rarau P, Stanisic DI, Robinson L, Barnadas C, Manong D, Salib M, Iga J, Tarongka N, Ley S, Rosanas-Urgell A, Aponte JJ, Zimmerman PA, Beeson JG, Schofield L, Siba P, Rogerson SJ, Reeder JC, Mueller I. Intermittent preventive treatment for malaria in Papua New Guinean infants exposed to Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax: a randomized controlled trial. PLoS Med. 2012;9(3):e1001195. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001195. Epub 2012 Mar 27. Erratum in: PLoS Med. 2012 Jun;9(6). doi:10.1371/annotation/de06fdd3-c263-416c-8b5f-291f9c474558. PMID: 22479155; PMCID: PMC3313928.
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.