A vaccination to protect humans from the toxoplasma parasite is one step closer thanks to a Swiss Government scholarship awarded to a Queensland Tropical Health Alliance (QTHA) researcher at James Cook University.
Dr Rob Walker has won a 12-month Swiss Government scholarship to pursue postdoctoral research at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, in the laboratory of collaborator, Professor Adrian Hehl.
Dr Walker will continue his work with Professor Nick Smith, a QTHA researcher and head of JCU’s Centre for Biosecurity and Tropical Infectious Diseases, on ‘Sexual stage development of Toxoplasma gondii: The path to a transmission-blocking vaccine’.
Toxoplasma is a parasite that affects humans and animals in large numbers worldwide, but is particularly problematic in the tropics.
An early-career researcher at JCU in Cairns, Dr Walker has been working with Professor Smith and researching the Toxoplasma parasite for more than 10 years.
The Swiss Government scholarship will allow him to study how the parasite transforms into male and female sexual stages, and identify transmission-blocking vaccine candidates.
“The international team from the three scientific organisations have worked together for many years and this new grant provides another investment to develop new ideas of major importance to Australia and our neighbours,” Professor Smith said.
“This scholarship is a fantastic opportunity, not only for me as an early-career researcher to collaborate directly with a world-class body like the University of Zurich, but also for the success of this highly ambitious project,” Dr Walker said.
“Our research is very important because it addresses fundamental questions about a very neglected area of research in Toxoplasma biology.
“The findings of this project will translate into novel strategies for protecting humans and livestock from this resilient parasite.”
Issued August 7, 2013
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