Our Research Projects

Infectious disease modelling to inform animal and public health policy

Modelling outbreaks of infectious diseases of national and international veterinary public health significance in Australia and other countries. 

Examples include:

  • Modelling foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks in Australia, New Zealand, The United Kingdom, South Korea and Japan.
  • Decision support tools for foot-and-mouth disease preparedness.
  • Parallel (cluster) computing for modelling complex emergency animal disease outbreaks.
  • Modelling the 2007 and future equine influenza outbreaks in Australia.
  • Modelling bovine tuberculosis among livestock in New Zealand.
  • Modelling arboviral diseases and investigating factors underlying outbreaks

 Main contact: Prof Mark Stevenson

Controlling foodborne disease of animal origin

Collaborative research integrating the latest epidemiological and bioinformatics techniques to investigate the spread of foodborne pathogens through animal production systems and reduce public health impacts.

Examples include:

  • Studies of the transmission of Salmonella within the poultry industry and the relationship of identified isolates to those affecting humans.
  • Involvement in foodborne disease outbreak investigation. 

Main contact: Dr Simon Firestone

The epidemiology and control of Q fever

 One Health research to prevent a large-scale Q fever outbreak in Australia, reduce public health risk and potential agricultural and environmental impacts

  • Outbreak investigation in collaboration with public health, medical and agricultural agencies
  • Spatiotemporal analyses of public health surveillance data
  • Development and validation of highly accurate diagnostics for Australia’s livestock and wildlife species
  • Development and trialling of vaccination options for livestock in Australia
  • Estimation of the distribution, animal health and  production impacts of coxiellosis in livestock
  • Sero-surveillance for Coxiella burnetii in goats, sheep, cattle and wildlife 

Main contact: Dr Simon Firestone

Enhancing livestock disease surveillance at the farm level

Collaborations with the Mackinnon project, the Victorian State Government and sheep, goat and cattle industries to enhance detection and reporting of important livestock disease from extensive industries.

  • Local area syndromic surveillance and animal movement network analyses.
  • Sero-surveillance of anthrax in Victorian cattle.

Main contact: Prof Mark Stevenson

Bayesian validation of diagnostic tests for emerging infectious diseases

Latent class modelling to derive specifications of new diagnostics for emerging infectious diseases of agricultural and public health importance.

  • Validation of a new multiplex PCR for bovine theilerosis in collaboration with the FVAS Parasitology group, industry partners and government veterinary agencies in Australia and New Zealand
  • Validation of a new ELISA specific for Mycoplasma bovis in cattle in collaboration with the FVAS Microbiology group, industry partners and the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation
  • Validation of an immunofluorence assay specific for Coxiella burnetii in livestock and wildlife, in collaboration with the Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory

Main contact: Dr Simon Firestone

Community-based interventions for free-roaming dog control

Collaborative research with non-governmental organisations (Vets Beyond Borders and Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities (AMRRIC):

  • Community-based educational intervention to improve school children’s knowledge of rabies and dog bite prevention in Sikkim, India
  • Monitoring and evaluation of dog population control interventions.
  • A workshop titled ‘Dogs and People: Are We Making a Difference?’ was held at the Veterinary Research Institute, Parkville campus, The University of Melbourne 16 May 16, 2015.

Main contact: Prof Mark Stevenson

Project opportunities

Title

Development of an evaluation pathway for diagnostic tests to be fit for purpose early in infectious disease emergence.

Project description

CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory and the University of Melbourne are seeking an applicant for a PhD position to investigate the rapid development and appraisal of diagnostic tests when data are sparse and there is an absence of a gold standard test against which to compare.

The student will be working with partners in the newly established OIE Collaborating Centre for Diagnostic Test Validation Science. Applicants will be expected to have an aptitude for quantitative epidemiology, background in a relevant discipline (veterinary or public health epidemiology, microbiology, applied mathematics and/or computer science), have experience in one of the scientific coding languages (i.e. R, C++, Python, Java, Matlab, etc.) and be eligible for the Australian Research Training Program Scholarship (stipend of AUD 27,000 per year). An additional stipend top-up of AUD 7,000 per year is available.

The project will involve development of methods for the appraisal of diagnostics given sparse data and the absence of gold standards, including developing a single integrated Bayesian latent class model that can account for repeated measures, organisational hierarchy, non-constant sensitivity and specificity, pooling and a paucity of particularly appropriate prior literature. The theoretical elements developed will be applied to case studies of emerging infectious diseases and zoonoses such as Hendra virus, MERS and Q fever.

Research Students

Salina binti Amad, Doctor of Philosophy, Universiti Putra Malaysia

Project: Evaluation of cattle identification and traceability systems in relation to animal disease control in Malaysia.
Funding agency: Department of Veterinary Services, Malaysia.
Collaborators: The University of Melbourne.

Aashima Auplish, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (Research Project), The University of Melbourne

Project: Effectiveness of a community-based educational intervention to improve school children’s knowledge of rabies and dog bite prevention, Sikkim, India, 2014.Collaborators: Vets Beyond Borders, Department of Animal Husbandry, Livestock, Fisheries and Veterinary Services, Government of Sikkim (India).

Gemma Chuck, Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne

Project: The effects of significant pre-weaning events on subsequent lactation and reproductive performance on south-west Victorian dairy farms. Funding agency: Dairy Australia

Helen Crabb, Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne

Project: Controlling foodborne disease of animal origin. Funding agency: Cybec Foundation. Collaborators: Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory and poultry industry partners.

Hagos Gebrekidan, Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne

Jane Kelley, Doctor of Philosophy, LaTrobe University

Project: The epidemiology and management of liver fluke in irrigated dairy regions of Victoria.
: Victorian Sheep, Goat and Cattle Compensation Fund.
Collaborators: The University of Melbourne

Arata Hidano, Doctor of Philosophy, Massey University

Project: Identification of high-risk pathways for bTB transmission arising from farm-to-farm movement of livestock in New Zealand.
Funding agency: TBFree New Zealand, National Institute of Animal Health, Japan.
Collaborators: The University of Melbourne, TBFree New Zealand.

Nellie Marquetoux, Doctor of Philosophy, Massey University

Project: Dynamics and Control of Paratuberculosis on Multi-Species Pastoral Farms in New Zealand.Funding agency: Vice Chancellor’s Massey University Doctoral Scholarship Collaborators: Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Landcorp New Zealand.

Michael Muleme, Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne

Project: The epidemiology and control of Q fever. Funding agency: The University of Melbourne International Research Scholarship.Collaborators:Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory.

Dinh Nguyen, Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne

Caitlin Pfeiffer, Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne

Project: Enhancing livestock disease surveillance at the farm level and network modelling of animal movement data. Funding agency: Victorian Sheep, Goat and Cattle Compensation Funds.Collaborators: Mackinnon project, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

Kelly Porter, Master of Veterinary Public Health (Emergency Animal Diseases) VPH Research Project, The University of Melbourne

Project: Sero-surveillance of anthrax in Victorian cattle. Funding agency: Meat and Livestock Australia & CSIRO’s Biosecurity Flagship. Collaborators: AgriBio, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

Harun Rashid, Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne

Kate Richards, Doctor of Philosophy, Massey University

Project: Disease Mapping for Veterinary Epidemiology. Funding agency: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.Collaborators: The University of Melbourne, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Julia Sarandopoulos, Bachelor of Science (Honours), The University of Melbourne

Project: Early Predictors of the Size and Duration of Foot-and-Mouth Disease Epidemics. Funding agency: Department of Agriculture (Canberra).Collaborators: Department of Agriculture (Canberra), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA), MPI (New Zealand), AsureQuality (New Zealand), Animal, Plant and Health Agency (United Kingdom), Canadian Food Inspection Agency, The University of Guelph (Canada).

Masako Wada, Doctor of Philosophy, Massey University

Project: Economic analysis of national control strategies against foot-and-mouth disease.
Funding agency: University of Hokkaido Doctoral Scholarship, Vice Chancellor’s Massey University Doctoral Scholarship.
Collaborators: Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne.

José Canevari, Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne

Project: Q fever in intensively managed dairy goat herds: Within-herd disease dynamics and its impact on productivity.
Funding agency: Rural Research for Development and Profit Project 15-02-008 and the Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA), Argentina.

Shumoos Al-Riyami, Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne

Project: Decision support tools for vector-borne diseases of livestock.
Funding agency: The Ministry for Higher Education, Oman.
Collaborators: Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Australia.

Ravi Dissanayake, Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland

Project: Using passively collected surveillance data to describe and model spatio-temporal patterns of koala sightings and risk factors for koala mortalities in South-East Queensland, 1997-2014.
Funding agency: Queensland Government State Government.
Collaborators: The University of Melbourne.

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