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The diversity of transmission pathways for Ross River virus

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  • Full or part time
    Dr F Frentiu
    Prof G Devine
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Ross River virus (RRV) is a single-stranded RNA virus belonging to the Alphavirus genus. It causes debilitating arthritogenic disease and accounts for the highest number of arbovirus disease notifications in Australia (ca. 5000 cases/year). It has previously caused explosive epidemics in the Pacific and recent serosurveys suggest that it now may be endemic in that region. Although > 20 vertebrate hosts have been described for RRV, marsupials are considered the most important amplifiers of the virus. However, empirical evidence, based on laboratory infection and virus isolation from the field, is rare. Circulation in the Pacific, in the absence of marsupials, suggests other vertebrates can maintain transmission. Horses or cattle may play a role and even humans are implicated as reservoirs during large outbreaks. RRV has been isolated from > 40 mosquito species, although the most important are often listed as Aedes vigilax, one of the most seasonally abundant mosquitoes in coastal areas, and Culex annulirostris, a widespread freshwater species. Again, their true contribution to RRV transmission is unknown.

Globally, anthropogenic and ecological changes may increase vector and host prevalence, expose new reservoirs to infection or induce arboviruses to adapt to new maintenance cycles. These factors may favour the emergence and spread of human zoonotic infectious diseases. Detailed studies on RRV, its vectors and its hosts are required to 1) track the diversity and evolution of viruses across habitats 2) understand key virus transmission pathways, 3) inform the potential for regional management of RRV and 4) define the risk of global establishment of RRV.

Research Questions:
1. Does the phylogeny of RRV variants have a distinct spatial or environmental structure?
2. Which mosquitoes and wild vertebrates are involved in RRV transmission in Australia?
3. Does RRV have distinct transmission pathways in urban, peri-urban and rural habitats?

1. Gain a fine scale understanding of how specific RRV variants emerge and dominate particular habitats.
2. Longitudinal collection and identification of mosquitoes (including blood-fed individuals) around areas associated with high and low RRV transmission using novel trapping tools (e.g. automated traps, mosquito saliva or excreta capture systems).
3. Employ a range of xenodiagnostics (microPRNTs, sequencing, virus detection) to
incriminate vectors, record RRV exposure in vertebrate hosts, and explore associations between virus variants and habitat.
4. Application of SIR or matrix models to rank explore the impacts of different vectors and hosts on transmission.

Funding Notes

Australian and International applicants are eligible to apply. Selected candidates will be required to apply to competitive scholarships through the Faculty of Health, QUT and will be assisted with their applications. PhD scholarships are approx. $(AUD) 27 596pa for 3.5 years full time study. PhD applicants must have completed or be expected to complete a first class hons or a Masters degree (>25% research).

Demonstrated research excellence, such as academic awards, presentations and peer-reviewed publications are desirable, but not essential.

International students must meet entry requirements for QUT

For more information about scholarships and postgraduate study at QUT

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