Student Projects

Intramuscular zoonotic parasites of native and non-native animals causing human myositis

Project Supervisor/s

Suitable for Honours Students

Introduction

Myositis is defined as inflammation of the muscles that can cause weakness and loss of muscle function. It can be caused by injury, autoimmune disease, and by a range of infectious diseases including parasites, all of which are zoonotic. One of the most common parasites causing myositis in humans is the helminth parasite Trichinella spiralis, that infect human muscles and comes from animals. T. spiralis is naturally occurring in pigs, although this is not considered endemic in Australia. Less common, the nematode Haycocknema perplexum has been identified as the causative agent of myositis in a small number of humans from North Queensland and Tasmania; including one patient presumed to have been infected in North Queensland who lived Toowoomba, and one potential case in a horse. Little is known about its lifecycle, but there is a link to native wildlife with most cases having some kind of contact with native wildlife, but only two human cases admitted to consuming ‘bush meat’. The worm itself has been morphologically identified to the Muscullidoieda, a helminth family whose members are known to cause muscle infections in native Australian wildlife. Outside of the helminths two protozoan parasites, Toxoplasma gondii and Sarcocystis sp., can cause myositis in animals and humans; and both can be found in both native and non-native animals in Australia.

With this project we hope to begin to elucidate the lifecycle of H. perplexum beginning with exploring native wildlife for the presence of this parasite from wildlife and rescue facilities as well as examining unexplained cases of myositis in non-native animals presenting at South East Queensland (SEQ) veterinary clinics. We will determine the status of parasite induced myositis in SEQ focusing on those species which are zoonotic – H. perplexum, T. gondii, and Sarcocystis sp. A Haycocknema perplexum fact sheet and consent form have been made for veterinary clinics and animals owners.

Other projects may be available for honours and PhD level. If you have a good idea for a project focused on parasitic infections, get in touch.

To apply for this project, please contact the project supervisor/s

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