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Associate Professor Barbara Coulson

Associate Professor Barbara Coulson

Associate Professor Barbara Coulson

(03) 8344 8823 | [email protected]

Laboratory Head
Host Pathogens Interactions , Enteric infections, Viral Infectious Diseases
Discovery Research
Department of Microbiology and Immunology (DMI)
Lab Group(s):
Coulson Group

University of Melbourne Associate Professor Barbara Coulson researches the mechanisms underlying the rotavirus disease process, and how virus infection may accelerate the development of type 1 diabetes. She is a world-leader in rotavirus research. She completed her PhD supervised by Ian Holmes, and her early postdoctoral research in collaboration with Ruth Bishop, the co-discoverers of human rotaviruses. She has been an National Health and Medical Research Council Research (NHMRC) Fellow since 1991, and is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Virology.

  • Key Achievements
    • Barbara led in the development of methods for rotavirus diagnosis and typing, and showed intestinal antibodies are protective. Her discovery – that integrins are rotavirus receptors – was an important milestone, followed by the demonstration of human rotaviruses usage of sialic acids and a histo-blood group antigen. She was integral to the uncovering of a possible link between rotavirus and type 1 diabetes. Her group has discovered how rotavirus may modulate diabetes, and rotavirus’ effects on innate immune responses. Her research supported the rationale for the development of live attenuated oral rotavirus vaccines, which are now utilised worldwide.

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    • Modulation of type 1 diabetes development by rotavirus infection

      Barbara’s group has linked rotavirus infection in children at risk of type 1 diabetes with faster diabetes development. A heightened response to the virus is implicated as a mechanism for this by their mouse model studies. They are determining if more rapid mouse diabetes due to rotavirus requires this heightened response, and if this response is also made by cells from diabetes patients after stimulation with rotavirus or other relevant viruses. These studies are vital to learn how viruses affect type 1 diabetes and devise interventions.

    • Cellular receptors used by rotaviruses for attachment and entry

      Interaction of the rotavirus spike with cellular receptors including glycans (sugars) and integrins controls rotavirus entry into the cell. In collaboration with colleagues at the Institute of Glycomics, Barbara’s group is identifying the cell surface sugars recognised by human rotaviruses, determining their roles in infection in relation to integrin usage, and characterising the binding sites on both receptor partners. Further understanding the process of their newly discovered rearrangement of the spike protein is being sought. They also aim to design, synthesise and evaluate small molecule and glycan subunit-based inhibitors that block host cell recognition by the spike protein of human rotaviruses.

    Research Groups
    • Coulson Group

      Barbara’s group uses the techniques of virology, immunology, biochemistry and molecular biology to understand at the cellular and molecular level how rotavirus infects host cells, and how rotavirus and other viruses affect the development of type 1 diabetes.

      Lab Team

      Coulson Group

      • Dr. Gavan Holloway
        Postdoctoral Research Fellow
      • Assoc. Prof. Lijuan Yuan
        Sabbatical Visitor
      • Fiona Fleming
        Research Assistant
      • Izabel Di Fiore
        PhD Student
      • Kaity Brown
        BSc (Hons) Student

Full University of Melbourne profile