Researcher biography

Vector-borne diseases (VBDs) are known for a long time to contribute significantly to the global burden of disease. These lead to epidemics, which upset health security and affect the socio-economy of a nation. Vectors and VBDs are all sensitive to climate, and the ongoing trend of climate change and variable weather conditions may lead to a change in the global scenario of these diseases. With changes in global climate, VBDs may shift to new regions, suitable for the pathogens and their vectors, and as such may switch to new host species. Being a parasitologist, I study parasites of veterinary importance and related diseases. My special research interest lies in understanding how vectors interact with pathogens, the effect of climate change on their ecology and epidemiology, and related sustainable control strategies.

To predict future changes in the ecology and epidemiology of the vectors and VBDs, first, we need to work on and understand the three primary entities within this disease transmission system, i.e. the pathogen, vector and the host. Secondly, we need to identify the climatic and environmental requirements of the vectors and vector-borne pathogens and the underlying cycle of events which run between them to help sustain the disease in a particular region. The global distribution of various VBDs and possibilities of spill over of these diseases between various regions and animal and vector species interests me the most. In the UK, my research was focussed on molecular and spatial epidemiology of ticks and flea-borne diseases. Further, I worked on a climate-based predictive model for the global distribution and risk of Haemonchus contortus (round worm of sheep). This model predicts the survival of worm larvae on pasture, based on the temperature and precipitation data and can help to predict the future spatial and temporal distribution and spread of H. contortus. Further, this model, along with targeted selective treatment (TST) of sheep, could help in reducing the pace at which anthelmintic resistance is developing in H. contortus and may help in sustainable sheep farming.

Currently, my lab is investigating the temporal and spatial distribution of zoonotic parasites among pet dogs in various regions of Southeast Queensland. In this project, we are collecting data from dog owners through an online survey pertaining to their knowledge of risk associated with dog parasites and their transmission into humans. Also, we are collecting dog faecal samples for microscopic and PCR analysis for various parasite eggs and oocysts. The data obtained from this survey will be analysed for determining the risk of spread of parasites among dogs as well as to humans in shared spaces and the relative risk of infection between parks.

Another study being conducted in my lab is about identifying drug resistance mechanisms in canine hookworms in Australia. The study will provide a baseline data on the frequencies of SNPs, known to confer benzimidazole resistance in animal helminths.

We have recently received an NHMRC 2021 grant looking into Targeted surveillance of major zoonotic arboviral and other vector-borne diseases in Australia using spectroscopy technology. Infectious diseases transmitted by vectors represent a significant health threat to the Australian biosecurity. Detection methods used in current surveillance of these pathogens are expensive, time consuming and require highly trained personnel. We propose to conduct a set of experiments to test the best spectroscopy technique to identify infected vectors and demonstrate its capacity as surveillance tool for vector control programs against these pathogens.

I always look forward to collaborating with fellow researchers within Australia and from different parts of the world to gain different perspectives of research of my interest.