Immune modulation during mycobacterial infection:host and pathogen processes


Molecular and immunological analysis of early immune changes associated with host exposure to Mycobacterium avium subsp. Paratuberculosis (MAP)


Professor Richard Whittington, Dr Karren Plain, Dr Auriol Purdie

Research Location

Faculty of Veterinary Science

Program Type



M.paratuberculosis causes chronic intestinal disease in animals. Recently, this mycobacterium has been found to infect humans and may be linked to Crohn’s disease, a debilitating inflammation of the bowel. The pathology and immune response to M.paratuberculosis infection closely resembles what occurs in other diseases caused by mycobacteria, including tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis) and leprosy (M. leprae) in humans. This makes Johne’s disease, the disease caused by M.paratuberculosis in cattle and sheep, an excellent animal model for mycobacterial infections. Immune modulation occurs during mycobacterial infection, both related to the host and the pathogen responses.  Findings from microarray analysis of early exposure of cattle to M.Paratuberculosis have revealed the involvement of immune pathways. This PhD project will study in detail the implications of these findings with particular emphasis on novel cellular mechanisms that may be altered in response to M.paratuberculosis and how these changes impact upon the pathogenesis of Johne’s disease, both from the point of view of the pathogen and the host.  Working within a large multidisciplinary and supportive team with access to ongoing field trials, this project will use an established experimental infection model in cattle and sheep. Animals can be followed throughout the course of the disease. Pathology of the lesions and expression of cytokines and chemokines throughout disease will be compared. The role of regulatory cells and molecules in M.paratuberculosis infection will also be examined. The study will incorporate molecular techniques such as cell culture, immunohistochemistry, quantitative RT-PCR, Flow Cytometry and genome array analysis to monitor changes in host cellular responses.

Additional Information

The project is based at the Camden campus. The successful candidate must have completed an undergraduate degree in science, agriculture, veterinary science or equivalent, have research experience (Honours or Master’s degree), good analytical and communication skills, and be willing to perform laboratory and field based studies.

The successful applicant must apply for and be awarded a scholarship (stipend) for example, an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) for Australian and New Zealand residents. For international applicants, the student must have a scholarship which covers full tuition fees and a living allowance. In addition, a ‘top-up’ of the living allowance may be negotiated with the successful student.

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mycobacterial infection, pahtogen, Immune modulation, mycobacterium avium

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1385

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