Molecular Microbiology

The Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases conducts clinically based research, as well as cutting edge molecular diagnostics for detection of infections as they relate to obstetrics, paediatrics, gynaecology and neonatology, as well as being a resource for clinical microbiology, infectious disease and infection control. 

Group Leaders: 
Group Members: 
Dr Jennifer Danielewski
Role: 
Research Scientist
Dr Dorothy Machalek
Role: 
Project Manager
Dr Monica Molano
Role: 
Molecular Biologist
Dr Asvini Subasinghe
Role: 
Project Officer YFHI
Dr Gerald Murray
Role: 
Senior Research Scientist
Hannah Shilling
Role: 
Research Assistant
Erica Plummer
Role: 
Research Assistant
Jenny Su
Role: 
Research Assistant

Young Female Health Initiative (YFHI)
Using Facebook to recruit females aged 16-25 years into the Young Female Health Initiative (YFHI) and Safe-D studies, our goal is to investigate interlinkages between five health domains: health behaviours, sexual and reproductive health, metabolic and cardiovascular health, bone and joint health, mental health and reproductive health data.

Our research to date involves collecting extensive online questionnaires, plus comprehensive clinical data, including biomarkers in more than 700 young women. We have also completed 103 visits 2 years post baseline in an ongoing follow-up study and have recruited 90% of our target among females with Type 1 diabetes for a pilot sub study in which we aim to compare health behaviours and outcomes in this cohort against the YFHI cohort. Having successfully collected comprehensive baseline data from YFHI and Safe-D, we aim to expand our study to investigate the health of young females over time and in Indigenous populations, those residing in regional areas, and those with specific health conditions.

ProPrems Biome
ProPrems Biome is researching the benefits of the oral administration of probiotics for the short and long term health of pre-term infants, in the following areas:

  • Prevention of gastrointestinal disorders (specifically necrotising enterocolitis)
  • Prevention of allergic disease (eczema, allergies)
  • Encouraging the development of normal innate immune function and prevent neonatal sepsis

IMPACT STUDY – National Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Monitoring Progra
IMPACT is a HPV monitoring program funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health. The program aims to track the prevalence of HPV infection, both vaccine- and non-vaccine types to make sure the National HPV Vaccination Program is doing what it is supposed to do in preventing infections. It is particularly important to ensure populations at higher risk of HPV-related disease, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and men-who-have-sex-with-men, are being protected.

Over the last three years, the program has recruited over 3000 people to provide samples for HPV testing and complete a short demographic and health behaviour survey. Preliminary data from this program has indicated huge reductions in HPV prevalence in women under 35 years of age, which is largely due to high coverage of the HPV vaccine delivered by the 2007-2009 catch-up and ongoing national school-based program. The program has also observed reductions in HPV in young, unvaccinated men, suggesting a high level of herd protection has been achieved by a female-only vaccination program.

Bacterial vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition affecting women of reproductive age. The disorder is characterised by an imbalance in the vaginal microbiota (bacteria), with the normally dominant “good” bacteria (e.g. Lactobacillus) replaced by a diverse array of “bad” bacteria. The disorder can contribute to complications in pregnancy including premature birth, reduced birthweight, and infection (chorioamnionitis). Bacterial vaginosis can also contribute to the acquisition and transmission of sexually transmitted infections. In collaboration with Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, our research group is studying this disorder by analysing the microbiota in both healthy and affected women with an emphasis on disease causation and treatment.

Mycoplasma genitalium
Mycoplasma genitalium is a sexually transmitted infection that affects 2-3% of the population. In women, M. genitalium infection can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, cause pregnancy complications (reduced birthweight, premature birth), and may lead to infertility. One major problem with M. genitalium infection are rapidly rising rates of resistance to multiple antibiotics. Our laboratory is researching the basis of antibiotic resistance. Additionally, in collaboration with the company SpeeDx Pty Ltd and co funded by the Federal Government Business Innovations program, our laboratory has helped in the development of diagnostic tests that can report both the detection of M. genitalium, and the resistance status of the infection, allowing the doctor to prescribe the most appropriate antibiotic therapy.

Funding: 
  • NHMRC program and project grants
  • DOHA
  • Merck researcher initiated grants
  • Department of Human Services
  • Cancer Council Victoria
  • Victorian Cancer Agency