The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital

EDUCATION

Research Projects

Project: Identification of host factors underlying severe and fatal respiratory diseases

Kedzierska group

Severe illness and death from respiratory disease like influenza and COVID-19 occur disproportionately in high-risk individuals, including the elderly, young, pregnant women, Indigenous populations globally, people with comorbidities, obesity, diabetes, heart and lung disease. The underlying immunological, viral and host genetic factors of severe influenza disease in high-risk groups are far from clear. Furthermore, while many hospitalized individuals belong to the high-risk groups, a significant proportion of hospitalizations occurs in previously healthy individuals (for example, 36.6% in the age group 20-49 in Australia), with no prior known risk factors. In this project, we will define host factors and the mechanisms underlying severe influenza disease in high-risk and previously healthy individuals. Our transcriptome analyses from patients infected with avian H7N9 influenza showed that at the time of hospital admission, key genes were differentially-expressed in H7N9 patients who died compared to surviving patients. Consequently, these genes are of interest as early biomarkers to predict disease outcome and inform clinicians how to manage early interventions such as artificial ventilation more effectively in patients at risk of dying. Using a combination of mouse models and human immunology, this project will dissect the mechanisms of how these elevated host factors contribute to severe influenza disease and impair T cell immunity.

Contact project supervisor for further
information and application enquiries

Project Supervisor

Professor Katherine Kedzierska

Project Co-supervisor

Dr Brendon Chua

Project availability
PhD/MPhil
Master of Biomedical Science
Honours

Kedzierska group

kkedz@unimelb.edu.au

2 vacancies

Themes
Immunology
Viral Infectious Diseases
Cross Cutting Disciplines
Discovery Research
Indigenous Health
Translational and Clinical Research

The Kedzierska Group has a strong international profile in human immunology, with a major focus on universal broadly-protective T cell immunity to seasonal, pandemic and avian influenza viruses as well as SARS-CoV-2 infection. Our main goal is to identify key protective correlates of recovery from severe respiratory disease in high-risk groups, including children and the elderly, and to understand mechanisms underlying generation of optimal immunity to respiratory infections. In particular, we are interested in generating long-lasting immunity elicited by killer T-cells recognising conserved viral regions. Our work intends to improve vaccine and therapeutic designs to protect against severe viral infections, including influenza and COVID-19, with possible applications to other infectious diseases and tumours.