Public and environmental health

Our Public and Environmental Health teams are highly skilled in researching diseases, vectors and environmental contaminants which are of public health importance. We have a number of high containment laboratories and specialised equipment that facilitate research in exotic, highly pathogenic or unknown viruses, bacterial and insect vectors of disease.

We use cutting-edge technologies to undertake research in:

  • zoonoses, emerging viruses and arboviruses
  • epidemiological surveillance and analysis of bacterial pathogens
  • antimicrobial resistance
  • phylogenetics and evolution
  • disease reservoirs and source tracking
  • allergens in food
  • food forensics and security, including country-of-origin testing
  • air, water and food quality
  • radiation investigations.

Our scientists have expertise in:

  • new sequencing technologies applied to virus and bacterial diagnostics
  • metagenomic and deep sequencing of clinical, environmental and food samples
  • detection and characterisation of newly identified and emerging viruses
  • phenotypic, molecular and genomic technologies
  • detection and characterisation of food, algae and environmental and waterborne pathogens
  • environmental radioactivity baseline studies and exposure pathways
  • radiobiology and the impact of radioactivity on non-human-species
  • analysis of elemental and metals in water, soil, food, biota and air
  • detection of organic pollutants, toxins, and contaminants in the environment.

Research projects

Below are some examples of research projects conducted by our Public and Environmental Health teams.

The aim of this project is to better understand the epidemiology, pathogenesis and development of antimicrobial resistance of Shigella strains from PNG and neighbouring Pacific island nations. This will be achieved through the application of culture, molecular and bio-informational techniques to Shigella isolates that originate from Pacific countries.

Collaboration: Monash University

The aim of this project is to characterise potentially toxic and ecologically significant cyanobacteria from diverse drinking and recreational water habitats in Queensland.

Collaboration: Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation.

A baseline study will provide information to decision makers of the impact and possible consequences that a nuclear incident could cause for the Australian public health.

Collaboration: Monash University

Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-borne pathogen and has caused explosive and unpredictable outbreaks over the past decade, with the current epidemic in the Americas affecting over 1.7 million people. This project aims to assess how genetic diversity in CHIKV strains influences vector competence of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, under temperatures reflective of climates of major Australian cities.

Collaboration: Queensland University of Technology

The aim of this project is to analyse metal content in water samples from selected sites along the Tully river and demonstrate the applicability of using lead isotopic ratios as a tool in distinguishing mining or other anthropogenic activities from naturally occurring stable isotopes.

This study aims to address priority 3 of the National HeV Research Program which is to improve the capacity to detect and respond effectively to HeV incidents in susceptible human or animal hosts. The primary objective will be to produce a highly purified protein derivative in order to enhance its performance in a luminex microsphere immunoassay and provide a reliable, continued source of the diagnostic reagent. This will ensure that there is adequate laboratory capacity to respond to disease outbreaks or bioterrorist threats in the future.

Collaboration: University of Queensland.

Last updated 23 February 2018