The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

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Suellen Nicholson

Suellen Nicholson

Suellen Nicholson

(03) 9342 9647 |

Head of Infectious Diseases Serology Laboratory
Immunology, Viral Infectious Diseases, Dengue, Emerging Infections, Hepatitis , HIV, Influenza
Education & Professional Development, Epidemiology, Global Health, Indigenous Health, Public Health
Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL)
Lab Group(s):
Nicholson Group

Suellen Nicholson is a Senior Medical Scientist heading the Infectious Diseases Serology Laboratory, including the State HIV Reference Laboratory, World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region serology components of the Reference Laboratory for Measles/Rubella and WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL). Suellen has thirty years’ experience working in serology laboratories, focussed on testing and result interpretation for viruses, bacteria and parasites. In addition to diagnostic, reference and public health work, Suellen has lead a number of research projects and is currently a member of Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia Serology Advisory Committee.

  • Key Achievements
    • Suellen completed her Bachelor of Science in 1984 and began work in the Virology Laboratory at the Red Cross Blood Bank in 1985. In 1987, she moved to the National Hepatitis Laboratory at Fairfield infectious Diseases Hospital, subsequently the State HIV Reference and Infectious Diseases Serology Laboratory. In addition to diagnostic testing, she has lead a number of research projects, including: determining the prevalence of HTLV-1 infection in selected populations in Australia and the Western Pacific; evaluating the first tests for Hepatitis C and carrying out large-scale studies to determine the prevalence of Hepatitis C in various populations within Australia; a WHO Collaborative study on alternative confirmatory strategies for anti-HIV testing; WHO Collaborative Hepatitis serosurveys in the Western Pacific region, including working on the island of Lombok, Indonesia; and Seroprevalance studies in collaboration with the Department of Health and Department of Defence.

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    • Kiribati – improving access to care and treatment of Viral Hepatitis in Kiribati

      As a World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Reference Laboratory for Hepatitis B Virus Suellen’s group along with the VIDRL Molecular Microbiology laboratory is involved in a collaborative project with Tungaru Central Hospital, the national referral hospital in Kiribati. Serum samples from HBsAg positive patients are collected and transported to VIDRL  for confirmatory laboratory testing for Hepatitis B and D viruses. From the enrolled patients, a treatment cohort will be established according to WHO criteria. The planned enrolment is 1,000 HBsAg positive patients. By identifying and initiating treatment for those with advanced disease this study will reduce the burden due to HBV infection in Kiribati.

    • Kiribati – confirmatory testing for Hepatitis B using dried blood spots

      This is an additional component of the Kiribati project. Suellen’s group is involved in the development and evaluation of a laboratory method for hepatitis B virus confirmation using dried blood spot (DBS) filter paper testing as an alternative method to venous blood collection. Matched DBS are being collected along with serum samples from 100 individuals. These are being analysed to determine if the DBS technology is a feasible method of sample collection in Kiribati.

    • Estimating HIV incidence in Victoria

      As the Victorian State HIV Reference Laboratory, Suellen’s group is involved in a collaborative project with the Department of Infectious Diseases, Alfred Health, Monash University and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

      The aims of this study are: 

      1. to assess the HIV incidence in Victoria, annually, between 2012 and 2018
      2. to determine if there was a decline in incident HIV notifications since the implementation of PrEPX in Victoria in 2016 
      3. to determine if there was a decline in incident HIV notifications among gay and bisexual men and other populations at risk of HIV infection since the implementation of PrEPX in Victoria in 2016.
    • The Burnet Institute – assessment of a novel blood separator device

      The Burnet Institute has recently developed a novel low cost, lateral flow Blood Separator Device (BSD). The preliminary studies have only been conducted and further studies are required to assess its application to various infectious diseases and its utility under conditions suitable for resource-poor settings. Suellen’s group is involved in assess its utility for serological diagnosis of infectious diseases. The BSD will be compared with current collection methods including dried blood spot and whole blood samples.

    • The distribution of Strongyloides stercoralis in Australia – the Serology Mapping Project

      Selected Victorian population data for whom a medical practitioner has ordered a test for Strongyloidiasis and the test was positive has been collected and supplied for the Strongyloides Serology Mapping project. The aim of the project is to document the extent of the geographical distribution of places in Australia where Strongyloides stercoralis occurs. This evidence will enable appropriate steps to be taken towards the eradication of the disease strogyloidiasis, caused by these parasites.

    Research Groups
    • Nicholson Group

      Suellen's group fulfills a dual mission of providing a technically first class, reliable diagnostic, reference and public health service to the healthcare system, and being an innovative, adaptable, forward-looking component of the scientific community and a valued collaborator in research projects, not just in Victoria, but nationally and in the region.

      Lab Team

      Nicholson Group

      • Theo Karapanagiotidis
        Deputy scientist
      • Vicki Stambos
        WHO Measles/Rubella scientist
      • Bridget Fraser
        Bursary student
      • Kim Vo
        Bursary student
      • Rianne Brizuela
      • Josie Camilleri
      • Stavroula Corby
      • Celia Douros
      • Thomas Holgate
      • Di Karamalakis
      • Theodora Kaminis
      • Alma Redzic
      • Kate Sharma
      • Daniel Sijmons
      • Laura Stevens
      • Megan Triantafilou