31 August 2016
A research project combining the expertise of the University of the Sunshine Coast and the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service is working to better treat and prevent one of Australia’s most prevalent sexually transmitted infections in humans.
The team, led by USC Professor of Microbiology Peter Timms, is using a $20,000 USC/Wishlist Collaborative Research Grant to study individual immune responses to chlamydia, to determine why some women only get infected once and seem to be protected after antibiotic treatment, while others get repeat multiple infections.
“This study will be another step towards developing a human vaccine for this disease, which if left untreated can have serious health complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility,” he said.
“Australian diagnosis rates have increased by more than 400 percent in the past decade and the development of a vaccine is a priority of the World Health Organisation.
“It’s taken two years to get the study to this point and we’re so pleased the Wishlist grant has enabled us to start sampling. We hope to have preliminary findings in six months.”
Working alongside Professor Timms will be USC PhD student Noa Ziklo, USC Research Fellow Dr Miranda Vidgen and Dr Kuong Taing, Sexual Health Physician with the Sunshine Coast Sexual Health and HIV Service.
Professor Timms said the study had already started to gather data from three groups of women attending the Nambour sexual health clinic.
“We will follow up with the participants for three months to determine the unique immune characteristics for protection against future chlamydia infections,” he said.
“Some people are more susceptible than others, regardless of sexual habits or antibiotic treatments. Finding out why could help determine whether probiotics, for example, might be useful.”
Professor Timms is already internationally recognised for his USC-based laboratory’s work on developing vaccines and new diagnostics for chlamydial diseases in animals such as koalas.
“The koala vaccine is potentially a useful model for human chlamydia vaccine development, and we can certainly learn a lot about these strategies from a real-world perspective,” he said.
Wishlist CEO Lisa Rowe said the project exemplified the importance of Wishlist’s growing commitment to local research projects, this year totalling $422,245.
“Wishlist is focused on supporting groundbreaking research here on the Sunshine Coast, and Professor Timms’ project is an innovative example of this,” Ms Rowe said.
“Through the generosity of our community, our best and brightest academics and health staff on the Coast can access these grants to become research leaders within their fields.”
— Julie Schomberg