AITHM James Cook University

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ABOUT

The primary objective of our highly collaborative multi-disciplinary research group is to improve vector surveillance to stop transmission of malaria, dengue, Zika and chikungunya globally but with a particular focus in the Asia-Pacific. Our One Health approach to understanding mosquito-borne disease transmission systems seeks to quantitatively understand the interactions between the mosquito vectors, disease pathogens, human hosts and the environment. By characterizing these complex systems, our research can improve vector control programs to eliminate disease transmission.

Our activities range from basic applied research conducted on campus at JCU, through to field based studies focused on understanding the vectors and associated transmission systems, and their translation into policy guidance. The Mosquito Borne Diseases Group is based at the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, on the Cairns campus of James Cook University. Here the facilities include PC2 laboratories, state-of-the-art insectaries including  two large semi-field structures in the Mosquito Research Facility. Our team conducts field work in collaboration with local institutes and vector control programs across the globe including in Australia, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. 

To view an example of one of our research programs, click here

RESEARCH THEMES

  • Understanding the broad-scale ecological processes influencing malaria and dengue transmission
  • Improving vector surveillance systems in malaria endemic countries through development of novel surveillance tools and capacity building
  • Developing evidence-based control of malaria and dengue vectors

RESEARCH PROJECTS

PacMOSSI: Pacific Mosquito Surveillance Strengthening for Impact

The Mosquito-Borne Diseases Group is leading a consortium of 12 institutions to enable more effective arbovirus and malaria vector surveillance in up to 12 Pacific island countries. The program will drive sustainable improvements in vector surveillance and control programs that will have broad impacts to improve regional health security. Activities are focused on building capacity to implement vector surveillance based on World Health Organisation recommendations. The consortium will strengthen existing networks to facilitate in-country and regional communication. A major outcome will be practical and actionable country-specific strategic plans to enable sustainable surveillance for control, containment and outbreak responses.

Key collaborators: World Health Organization, Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, Queensland Institute of Medical Research-Berghofer, Beyond Essential Systems, University of New South Wales, University of Queensland, The Burnet Institute, Australian Red Cross, Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network, Australian Defence Force Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute, The Pacific Community, and the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network.

Funder: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Evaluating zoonotic malaria transmission and agricultural land use in Indonesia (ZOOMAL)

Infection of humans with the monkey malaria parasite, Plasmodium knowlesi, is a serious and increasing problem across Southeast Asia. However, little is known about the geographical extent and ecological factors influencing transmission risk in Indonesia. The Mosquito Borne Diseases Group, in collaboration with Indonesian universities and institutes, will lead the entomological evaluation of the risk of human infection with P. knowlesi malaria in a range of ecotypes with different land use patterns including agricultural activities and disturbed forests in Sumatra. The burden of zoonotic malaria and transmission risk will be evaluated against land use factors, human activities, monkey movements and mosquito distributions. These activities will strengthen the ability of the national public health system to detect zoonotic malaria infections and to inform best-practice malaria control based on understanding the ecology of the vectors, monkey reservoirs and human host and will thus facilitate growth of the agricultural sector through a reduced burden of disease.

Key collaborators: Menzies School of Health Research (Project Lead) Universitas Sumatera Utara, Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology, Eijkman-Oxford Clinical Research Unit, University of Melbourne, University of Western Australia, CSIRO

Funder: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)


Strategies to prevent two viruses devaluing Australian crocodile skins

We are monitoring mosquito borne viruses which can infect crocodiles and damage their skins, resulting in economic losses. JCU Cairns is trapping mosquitoes and monitoring virus infections at a crocodile farm near Cairns and  transferring trapping technology to a farm near Darwin to better understand the natural history of the viruses and the risk they pose to the crocodile industry.

Funder: Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia


JCU Mosquito Trap Development

We are designing and internationally validating low cost mosquito traps for the surveillance of male Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, vectors of the dengue and Zika viruses. Trap prototypes have been successfully evaluated in multi-country trials in the Americas and the Pacific.

Funder: Verily Life Sciences


Protecting North Queensland from the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), an exotic dengue vector

Aedes albopictus, a documented vector of dengue, Zika and chikungunya, is one of the fastest spreading invasive species worldwide, and was first detected in the Torres Strait in 2005. This research is investigating the ecology, distribution and dispersal of Aedes albopictus on islands within the Torres Strait. This project includes an assessment of the feasibility of Attractive Targeted Sugar Baits (ATSB) to control Aedes albopictus. The research is determining the frequency that mosquitoes sugar feed, a parameter critical to the success of ATSBs. 

Funders: Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation and Tropical Australian Academic Health Centre


OUR TEAM

Dr Tamara Buhagiar

Research Fellow

Mrs Sally McDonald

Administrative Officer

Mr Mick Townsend

Research Assistant

Mr Tom Swan

PhD Student

Mr Boni Sebayang

Masters Student

Mr Bram van de Straat

PhD Student


FUNDING PARTNERS

We are grateful for the commitment of all our funders, who enable us to undertake much needed research to improve the surveillance and control of malaria and arboviruses.


COLLABORATING PARTNERS

Our research program is highly collaborative and would not be possible without the commitment and support of our many research partners.