Enteric Viruses

The Enteric Virus group researches diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, investigating microbial pathogens and their role in diseases important in children, including acute gastroenteritis and Crohn’s disease. The group’s research aims to improve the knowledge of the role of enteric infections, through molecular epidemiology, genome sequencing and immunology.

The team's major research areas include identifying and characterising a strain of rotavirus circulating across Australia in children with gastroenteritis. It is also working to characterise gut virus and bacterial populations (microbiome) of children with early onset Crohn’s disease using cutting-edge next generation gene sequencing and analysis, to identify alterations in the microbiome associated with disease remission and recurrence.

Another research area is examining molecular epidemiology and genomic characterisation of caliciviruses and other new viruses isolated from children admitted to hospital with acute gastroenteritis.

Group Leaders: 
Group Members: 
Prof Ruth Bishop
Role: 
Esteemed Honorary Fellow
Prof Graeme Barnes
Role: 
Senior Principal Research Fellow
Dr Daniel Cowley
Role: 
Research Officer
Dr Hai Feng
Role: 
Visiting Research Fellow
Nada Bogdanovic-Sakran
Role: 
Research Assistant
Karen Boniface
Role: 
Research Assistant
Dan Pavlic
Role: 
Research Assistant
Susie Roczo-Farkas
Role: 
Research Assistant
Sarah Thomas
Role: 
Research Assistant
Huy Tran
Role: 
Research Assistant
Celeste Donato
Role: 
PhD Student
Paloma Moreno
Role: 
PhD Student
Dr Shivani Kansal
Role: 
PhD Student
Rhian Bonnici
Role: 
Honours Student
Marion Tissera
Role: 
BMed Sci Student
Karen Boniface
Role: 
Research Assistant
Nada Bogdanovic-Sakran
Role: 
Laboratory Assistant

Australian Rotavirus Surveillance Program

The Enteric Virus group runs the Australian Rotavirus Surveillance Program, which conducts a nationwide study on the rotavirus types circulating in children around Australia. This program undertakes molecular epidemiological studies on the rotavirus strains prevalent in Australia, which allows the researchers to track seasonal changes in rotavirus strains causing severe disease. In addition, the laboratory is also the WHO regional rotavirus reference laboratory and a WHO Collaborating Centre, and is involved with a range of molecular epidemiological studies to characterise the wildtype rotavirus strain population in several countries throughout the Western Pacific Region. The introduction and implementation of the national rotavirus vaccine program across Australia will increase the selective pressures on circulating wildtype strains, and may result in the emergence of new rotavirus strains. If this happens, these strains will likely impact vaccination programs. Understanding how vaccine introduction has impacted the circulating rotavirus population by altering the prevalence of common genotypes, selection of antigenic variants and emergence of new or novel types causing disease is the focus the group’s research. The genetic and biological mechanisms underlying vaccine escape will be studied, providing critical information about the circulating rotavirus population that will help maintain a successful ongoing rotavirus vaccine program.

 Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease has a complex etiology, where microbial factors are crucial in disease activation in individuals with a specific genetic predisposition. Emerging evidence suggests an increasingly important role of the gut microbiome in maintaining a healthy state. Disturbances of the gut microbial community underpin a number of diseases, including obesity, type II diabetes and colorectal cancer. Our research program will define the virome and bacterial microbiome of children with Crohn’s disease, using next generation sequence approaches. Metagenomic comparisons of the gut microbiome at disease onset, disease remission and disease recurrence will provide a unique opportunity to define specific microbial compositions and functions crucial in promoting gut health.