Molecular parasitology

Parasitic infections heavily affect global health. For example, it is estimated that half of the world population is at risk of contracting malaria, and a quarter of humanity currently suffers from soil-borne helminthic infections. Further, parasites also considerably infect livestock, with a tremendous impact on animal health and meat quality and yield.

Parasites can be transmitted by an insect vector, or simply present in water, soil or food, so infection rates can be very high. However, there are very few anti-parasitic vaccines and treatment options can be limited and inefficient.

Our laboratory studies human parasites (in particular Plasmodium falciparum, the most virulent of human malaria parasites), and veterinary parasites (such as Theileria, which affects cattle). We aim to understand the biological and genetic mechanisms crucial for the survival of the parasite inside its host, and to identify specific host-parasite interaction mechanisms needed for parasite survival.  Ultimately, we use this knowledge to identify new molecules that prevent parasite development and design novel anti-parasitic drug treatments.

Current projects

    Human malaria projects:

  • Host-parasite interactions:
    • Manipulation of the erythrocytic pathways by Plasmodium falciparum
    • The role of defensins during malaria infection
  • Cell cycle regulation:
    • Defining Plasmodium cyclin-dependent kinase molecular complexes
    • Characterisation of Aurora-related kinases during schizogony
    • The role of centrin proteins in Plasmodium cell division
  • Transcription regulation:
    • How does Plasmodium regulate gene transcription? - Identification of transcription factors binding sequences

    Animal parasite projects:

  • Theileria protein kinases: new drug targets for theileriosis?
  • Identification of parasites in wild deer in Australia - The role of wild deer in the transmission of diseases of livestock

Team members

Research leader: Dr Teresa Carvalho

PhD students:

Coralie Boulet

Mary Fletcher

Jose Huaman

Anna Sexton

Honours student: Abbey Dalrymple