Associate Professor Shelley Cavezza

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Associate Professor Shelley Cavezza


Associate Professor Biomedical Science, Immunology

PhD Syd., BApplSc(Biology) C.Qld.

+61 7 5430 2826
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Associate Professor Shelley Cavezza


Associate Professor Cavezza has greater than 15 years' experience in scabies research and Indigenous health. Her work has focused on the integration of laboratory based research with clinical and public health initiatives in skin health. This articulation between laboratory and public health has been extremely productive and allowed the translation of research findings into improved clinical practice. This includes directing studies on the clinical immunology of crusted scabies; the development of an immunodiagnostic test for scabies; tea tree oil as a potential natural therapy for scabies; molecular mechanisms of scabies mite resistance to current treatments; identification of scabies mite and house dust mite cross reactive allergens and their potential role in disease development and/or protection.

Research areas

Current studies are aimed towards improved understanding on the immunological interactions of inflammation, allergy, and infectious skin diseases leading to the development of novel immunotherapeutics and diagnostics. Studies are linked to translational improvements in health outcomes for disadvantaged populations.

Research projects

Current studies remain focused on understanding dysfunctional immune responses and how they contribute to the development and progression of several common chronic and autoimmune diseases including allergy, asthma, and infectious skin diseases. Research is aimed at developing better immunodiagnostics and immunotherapy, and specifically targeting improvements in health outcomes for disadvantaged populations.

Current research grants

 Project name Investigators  Funding body  Focus 

Development of a novel diagnostic test for scabies

Walton SF, MacDonald J, Currie B

Inflammation and Healing Research Cluster, University of Sunshine Coast

Immunodominant epitopes from a scabies mite allergen will be identified to accurately detect the presence of active scabies infestation and differentiate past infestations in people. This will provide essential information for the development of a point of care test for use in health clinics and scabies endemic communities.

Identification of early biomarkers in the regulation of inflammatory processes associated with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis Kuballa A, Walton SF, Nash P Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering Seed Grant This project aims to identify early biomarkers, in the form of microRNAs, and examine their role in the post-transcriptional regulation of inflammatory processes and disease progression of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis using next-generation sequencing technology.
An innovative dermatological solution for scabies Thomas J, Walton SF ACT Innovation Connect (ICon) Grant Program The proposed project will evaluate the clinical efficacy and safety of a tea tree oil nanogel in managing scabies, by generating pilot data for human trials. Tea tree oil, the key component of the formulation, has many properties that make it a suitable candidate for treating scabies. Its anti-bacterial properties and wound healing effects could stop scabies infections progressing to secondary bacterial skin complications, chronic heart and chronic kidney disease. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-pruritic activity could reduce inflammatory skin immune responses to mite antigens, such as eczema and severe itching.
Tea Tree Oil for the management of scabies in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children: A pilot randomised controlled trial. Thomas J, McMillan F, Calma T, Tobin J, Walton SF, Naughton M, Kosari S, Naumovski N, Dettwiller P, Carson C, Davey R, Collins P. University of Canberra Collaborative Indigenous Research Initiative Scabies affects about 6 in 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia at any given time, more than six times the rate seen in the rest of the developed world. It also predisposes affected children to renal and rheumatic heart disease. In an international first, our research will trial a simple and low-cost treatment against paediatric scabies and associated secondary bacterial skin infection, using a topical formulation containing tea tree oil. Should the results be positive, this would provide evidence for a simple treatment solution which would be affordable and effective, for a population with a significant public health burden. The proposed project builds on our team’s previous clinical work in this area.


  • Thomas J, Carson C; Peterson G, Walton S, Hammer K, Naunton M, Davey R Spelman T, Dettwiller P, Baby K, Kyle G, Cooper G. Therapeutic potential of Tea Tree Oil for scabies: A Review. 2015 American Journal of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene Feb 3;94(2):258-66
  • Thomas J, Peterson GM, Walton SF, Carson CF, Naunton M, Baby KE. Scabies: an ancient global disease with a need for new therapies. 2015 BMC Infectious Diseases 15(250)
  • Walton SF, Slender A, Pizzutto S, Mounsey K, Oprescu F, Thomas W,  Hales B, Currie B. Analysis of IgE binding patterns to house dust mite allergens in scabies endemic communities: insights for both diseases. 2015 Clinical and Experimental Allergy 45 p:1868-1872
  • Ni G, Wang T, Walton S, Zhu B, Chen S, Wuc X, Wang Y, Wei M, Liu X. Manipulating IL-10 signalling blockade for better immunotherapy. 2015 Cellular Immunology 293(2) p:126-129
  • Mounsey KM, Murray H, Bielefeldt-Ohmann H, Pasay C, Holt D, Currie B, Walton S, McCarthy J. Prospective Study in a Porcine Model of Sarcoptes scabiei demonstrates the association of Th2 and Th17 Pathways with the clinical severity of scabies 2015 PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.9(3): e0003498
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