Building on our strong track record in research into the control of blood-borne viral and sexually transmissible infections, we have broadened the scope of our work to include tropical diseases, vaccine preventable diseases, and epidemic response.
Topical diseases are infecitous diseases that occur in tropical and subtropical locations.
Malaria is one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity around the world. Our work in malaria involves mathematical modelling and statistical approaches to improve our understanding of how the malaria parasite grows in the human body and how this interacts with available treatments. This understanding will contribute to new tools to support malaria eradication.
Scabies is an under-recognised cause of morbidity in many developing countries, with more than 130 million people infected worldwide. It is strongly associated with impetigo which can lead to systemic infection, leading to septicaemia, kidney and heart disease. The Kirby Institute is leading a world-first trial of mass drug administration in Fiji, where researchers found that one round of ivermectin reduced the prevalence of scabies by 94 per cent one year after the intervention. This trial has been extended to the Solomon Islands.
Trachoma is a global health issue, and is a particular problem in the Pacific. Australia is the only developed country to have endemic trachoma, with outbreaks occurring in remote and very remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Kirby Institute coordinates the National Trachoma Surveillance and Reporting Unit which collects vital information to inform targeted interventions and engagement with local communities. Additionally, we are supporting countries in the Pacific to conduct research surveys to determine current and past infection levels.
Soil-transmitted helminths (STHs) are the most prevalent of the neglected tropical diseases. They are transmitted by worm eggs and larvae present in human faeces, which can contaminate soil in areas where sanitation is poor. It is estimated that over a billion people worldwide are infected with at least one STH. The Kirby Institute is leading a large-scale deworming trial in Vietnam, that aims to provide evidence for the effectiveness of community deworming programs. Other smaller studies are taking place in Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands, to look at the impact of ivermectin on STH.
Vaccine preventable diseases
Vaccines are the best way to prevent the spread of potentially life-threatening infectious diseases. Although public attention has recently focused on improving vaccination rates in Australian infants and children, the largest unvaccinated group of people recommended for immunisation are adults. With a specific focus on high risk adult populations such as the frail elderly, migrants, and refugees, our research expertise spans clinical trials, epidemiology, mathematical modelling, and social and behavioural research to remove barriers to access, inform policy, and evaluate existing intervention strategies.
The Kirby Institute conducts a number of clinical trials on influenza designed to uncover risk factors for disease severity. There is global concern that an avian virus could evolve and become capable of human-to-human transmission, resulting in a serious pandemic. We are involved in surveillance activities to closely monitor the changing global landscape of avian influenza and assess the risk of pandemic potential.
Led by the Kirby Institute, the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence, Integrated Systems for Epidemic Response (ISER) conducts applied systems research, enhances collaboration, and builds capacity in health systems research for epidemic control. We bring together experts in field epidemiology, epidemic response, military experts, international law, risk science experts, government and non-government agencies involved in epidemic response.
Healthcare workers, who are first responders in emergencies, were at a significantly higher risk of infection and death during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Our research involves contributing to the evidence base for appropriate selection of personal protective equipment and improving knowledge and attitudes about the equipment among healthcare workers and other first responders.
The Kirby Institute, together with other leading experts in clinical, laboratory and public health research, is part of APPRISE, the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Diseases Emergencies. We will contribute our expertise in designing and running systems for monitoring epidemics.
Our other infections research strengths
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health
- Biostatistics and Databases
- Infection Analytics
- Global Health
- Surveillance and Evaluation
- Viral Immunology Systems
Header image: Sarcoptes scabiei by laboratorio diagnostica ancona IZSUM (CC BY 2.0).