Infections of the gastrointestinal tract impose a major burden on society.
In children in non-industrialised countries, diarrhoea is a leading cause of malnutrition and premature death. In addition, the commensal bacteria of the intestine, which in every individual outnumber host cells by around 10 to 1, provide an enormous pool of genetic information, which disease-causing bacteria can acquire to become more virulent and resistant to antibiotics.
The Doherty Institute's expertise
The Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory (MDU PHL) provides state and national reference microbiology services for enteric pathogens, while the scope of the Doherty Institute's research into enteric infections is wide-ranging and employs basic cell biology and molecular genetics through to epidemiological research and field studies.
Specifically, researchers are investigating E. coli, Salmonella, rotavirus and norovirus, which are amongst the most important causes of diarrhoea. They are using the results of their work to develop new diagnostic reagents and novel strategies to treat and prevent diarrhea, as well as strategies for genomics-based surveillance and source attribution studies. Research in this area encompasses studies of the gut immune system, which will assist in the development of new and improved vaccines for intestinal pathogens.