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Associate Professor Sarah Dunstan

Associate Professor Sarah Dunstan

Associate Professor Sarah Dunstan

(03) 9035 4870 |

Principal Research Fellow
Enteric infections, Tuberculosis, Antimicrobial Resistance, Bacterial and Parasitic Infections
Discovery Research, Computational Science and Genomics, Global Health, Public Health, Clinical and health systems research
Department of Infectious Diseases
Lab Group(s):
Dunstan Group

Associate Professor Dunstan is a Senior Research Fellow and a lead of the Global Health cross-cutting discipline at the Doherty Institute. Sarah uses genomics to understand host-pathogen interactions of infectious diseases. Sarah completed her PhD at the University of Melbourne in 1998 then undertook a postdoctoral at Imperial College, London.  In 2001, Sarah joined the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Vietnam and headed up the Human Genetics group. Sarah developed a large program of work on enteric fever, tuberculosis and malaria. In 2013, Sarah returned to the University of Melbourne to continue infectious disease human genomics, and expanded her research to include pathogen genomics.  In a separate role for the Doherty Institute, Sarah is developing and implementing a strategy to facilitate and support multi-disciplinary clinical research and to enhance its impact.

  • Key Achievements
    • Sarah was the first to establish typhoid human genetics studies, which resulted in identifying the strongest resistance gene for typhoid). Within a Wellcome Trust award, Sarah is expanding these typhoid studies in Vietnam and Nepal to include Bangladesh and Malawi. At Oxford University, Sarah was twice awarded the Exceptional Merit Award from the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine for her contribution to genetics research in Vietnam, and facilitated the Vietnamese Kinh whole genome sequencing for the 1000 Genomes Project.  Sarah collaborates widely, has acquired funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council, A*STAR, Wellcome Trust, Gates Foundation and National Institutes of Health, and has over 60 publications including some in top ranking journals.

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    • Human and pathogen genomics of tuberculosis

      To develop effective therapies for tuberculosis it is crucial to fully understand disease pathogenesis and why only some individuals are susceptible to disease. Supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) Singapore, in collaboration with Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) Vietnam, Sarah’s group is investigating the interplay between the human host and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. They are employing a genomics approach to discover novel tuberculosis-associated genes in the Vietnamese, determining the contribution of bacterial genomic variability on tuberculosis outcome and drug resistance, and identifying the interaction between host and pathogen genetic variability in susceptibility to pulmonary tuberculosis. Complementary to this they are investigating the human genetic factors responsible for severe extra-pulmonary disease by performing genome-wide associations studies of tuberculosis meningitis.

    • Human genomics and integrated “omics” of enteric fever in Asia and Africa

      The interface between human host and pathogen likely has a critical role in determining outcome during enteric fever infection. Little is known about human host determinants influencing susceptibility to enteric fever so Sarah’s group is performing genome-wide association studies of patients from Vietnam and Nepal in collaboration with the Genome Institute of Singapore. Through a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award, these human genomics studies are being expanded to include enteric fever populations from Bangladesh and Malawi with the aim to discover novel typhoid disease associations amenable to clinical translation. Additionally, as part of a team supported by NHMRC, they will integrate these host genomic studies with pathogen genomic, transcriptomic and metabolomic studies of typhoid fever infections to identify key immune and metabolic pathways that can be exploited for vaccine design and next-generation diagnostics.

    • Human genomics of malaria

      As part of the global MalariaGEN genomics epidemiology network ( and in collaboration with OUCRU Vietnam, Sarah’s group is investigating human genetic factors that protect people against severe malaria by performing genome-wide association studies of malaria.

    Research Groups
    • Dunstan Group

      Sarah’s group is using host and pathogen genomics to better understand infectious diseases. They perform genome-wide association studies of the host, genomic studies of the pathogen, and investigate the interaction of both genomes in tuberculosis, enteric fever and malaria patients.

Full University of Melbourne profile