The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

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

  • Research Groups
    • Virus Identification Laboratory

      The Virus Identification laboratory performs rapid turnaround diagnostic virology on samples referred for testing. Further testing may include virus load, virus genotyping, lineage transmission investigation, drug resistance testing and genotyping, speciation, virus isolation and novel virus discovery. 

    Current Projects

    • Virus discovery

      Most virus testing uses highly specific and sensitive testing methods that are capable of only detecting the pathogen of interest. The Virus Identification laboratory has designed additional tests with broad reactivity to virus families or genera with the ability to detect newly emerging or zoonotic viruses known to infect all vertebrates that may present in humans. The methods can be employed for discrete cases, clusters or geographical investigations to detect unknown or unexpected viruses. The methods have detected a novel parvovirus and alphavirus. Virus isolation is possible with support services with Physical containment level 2, 3 and 4 laboratories available. Previously, a deadly novel arenavirus (Dandenong virus) was first co-discovered and isolated by this laboratory. 

    • Measles reference

      Australia was declared to have eliminated endemic measles virus in 2014. Measles is highly transmissible to unvaccinated or non-immune individuals. The National Measles reference function of the laboratory characterises and genotypes all measles detections in Australia to identify the specific genotypic lineage of imported strains in returned travellers or visitors. This allows the genotype to be linked to an importation event or specific geographical region, local transmission related epidemiological linking and contact tracing, and monitoring of onward transmission of cases in Australia. For Victorian cases, Julian’s group provides a rapid testing service to discriminate vaccine-strain from wild-type transmitted measles strains.

    • Herpes virus drug resistance testing

      The Virus Identification laboratory has a strong interest in herpes virus drug resistance testing and performs testing on samples from all over Australia. Genotypic testing is performed for cytomegalovirus (CMV) and varicella-zoster virus (VZV). For herpes simplex virus (HSV) 1 or 2, genotypic or phenotypic analysis is performed. Detection of drug resistance can help treating doctors better manage their patients and alter drug therapies as required.

    • Vaccine trial

      The Virus Identification laboratory is currently involved in the set-up logistics and laboratory testing of samples collected from participants enrolled in a large therapeutic virus vaccine trial. 

    • Ebola

      The National High Security Quarantine Laboratory provides diagnostic testing for suspected importations of viral haemorrhagic fever viruses including Ebola. The Virus Identification laboratory has investigated environmental survivability of many viruses including HIV, influenza and HSV in both aqueous and dried states to evaluate virus infectivity and PCR detectability over extended timeframes. Similar studies are planned to shed light on the infectivity retention and survival times of Ebola virus in blood and other body fluids. This data, along with disinfection data, will be used to shed light on the appropriate decontamination protocols of clinical care areas and routine pathology laboratory risk management should an Ebola patient be managed in our healthcare setting.

    Lab Team

    Virus Identification Laboratory

    • Head of High Containment Laboratories and Biorisk
    • Abdul Naser Amiri
    • Anthony Leggieri
    • Elizabeth McKinnon
    • Georgina Papadakis
    • Jaspreet Singh
    • Jessica Russell
    • Senior Medical Scientist
    • Renata Kostecki
    • Senior Scientist
    • Yano Yoga