Molecular Parasitology

Professor Don McManus

Senior Principal Research Fellow and Senior Scientist

Professor Don McManus’s laboratory is a world leader in parasitic worm research, with the goal of global control of neglected tropical helminthiases. The group translates laboratory findings into effective disease interventions paving the way for improved health outcomes. Along with a multidisciplinary collaborative team, his laboratory pioneers research on the development and application of schistosomiasis vaccines, in diagnostics, genomics and in tropical and international health, contributing a cohesive and remarkable body of 650 publications in an extensive career. Many have shaped policy and practice leading to improved treatment of worm infections with wide-scale application for informing government agencies across Australia and the world, on intervention options in other parasite-endemic communities.

CURRENT RESEARCH

  • Eliminating the major helminth worm diseases from the Lower Mekong Basin:

This cooperative research project involves scientists from Australia, Switzerland, Thailand, Lao PDR and Cambodia aiming to eliminate the major helminth parasites (intestinal worms and O. viverrini) in the Lower Mekong Basin countries. We will be trialling a novel multifaceted elimination program, including health education incorporating the Magic Glasses video.

  • Monitoring the national schistosomiasis control program in China:

In collaboration with Chinese colleagues, we will continue through to 2025, to monitor the national control schistosomiasis program in 16 sentinel villages in south China using field verified DNA-based diagnostic techniques we have developed.

  • Schistosomiasis vaccine development and deployment:

Vaccination of water buffalo reservoirs in China and the Philippines can assist in long-term prevention of human (and animal) S. japonicum infection. We will test a combination vaccine of two protein components (SjTPI and SjLD1) for protective efficacy in bovines with blinded vaccine/challenge experiments with S. japonicum, exploring the immune responses generated. We will then test the vaccine on the Island of Leyte in the Philippines where schistosomiasis prevalence exceeds 50%.

  • Low-cost DNA diagnostic tools for early parasitic worm detection:

We are applying a revolutionary cellulose-based DNA-dipstick approach for parasitic worm detection. We will combine the dipstick and loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) to provide rapid, at point of care (PoC) DNA diagnosis of subjects with schistosomes or intestinal worms.

  • Improved serological diagnosis of African and Asian schistosomiasis:

We are developing an optimal IgG-ELISA, based on two well-defined schistosome antigens, to aid in the morbidity control and elimination of African schistosomiasis. We will then advance and test a colloidal gold immunochromatography assay based on these two antigens for rapid diagnosis of African schistosomiasis at the Point of Care.

  • Programmed CRISPR/Cas9 mediated editing to generate conditional schistosome mutants:

We are developing methods for mining schistosome genomes to establish schistosome-derived cell lines for functional genomic studies. We will deliver chromosomal integration competent transgenes in different S. mansoni life cycle stages using the CRISPR/Cas9 mediated genome-editing system targeting key proteins; and develop stable S. mansoni neoblast-like cell lines for application in CRISPR/Cas9 mediated gene mutations to verify critical roles for future functional genomics studies of schistosomes.

 

THE MAGIC GLASSES

“The Magic Glasses” is a specially created educational video that informs children about the transmission and prevention of soil-transmitted helminths.
See the NEJM article “Health-Education Package to Prevent Worm Infections in Chinese Schoolchildren”

Internal Collaborators

  • Dr Hong You
  • Dr Catherine Gordon
  • Dr Pengfei Cai
  • Dr Jun Li
  • Mary Duke
  • Dr Yi Mu
  • Dr Shiwanthi Ranasinga
  • Sujeevi Nawaratha
  • Natasha Collinson
  • Tianfang Wang
  • Biniam Tebeje
  • Conor Fogarty
  • Vanessa Nkouayep
  • Xiaofeng Du
  • Madeleine Rogers
  • Poise Aula

External Collaborators

  • Professor Gail Williams, University of Queensland
  • Professor Darren Gray, Australian National University
  • Professor Allen Ross, Griffith University
  • Professor Alex Loukas, James Cook University
  • Professor Denise Doolan, James Cook University
  • Professor Malcolm Jones, University of Queensland
  • Professor David Blair, James Cook University
  • Professor Wenbao Zhang, Xinjiang Medical University
  • Professor Yuesheng Li, Hunan Institute Parasitic Disease
  • Professor Shengyue Wang, China Human Genome Centre
  • Professor Hu Wei, Fudan University
  • Professor Feng Zheng and Professor Zhou Xiaonong, National Institute of Parasitic Diseases
  • Professor Remi Olveda, Research Institute of Tropical Medicine
  • Professor Paul Brindley, George Washington University
  • Professor Don Harn, University of Georgia
  • Dr Geoff Gobert, University of Belfast
  • Professor Jurg Utzinger, Swiss Tropical Institute
  • Professor Robert Bergquist, World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellowship, Leadership Fellowship (Level 3), Program & Investigator Grants
  • NHMRC e-ASIA Joint Research Program
  • ARC Project grant
  • UQ/QIMR Berghofer Seed grant
  • AID/ANU Seed grants