Proteomics Surveillance of the Influenza Virus


Surveillance of the structure and antigenicity of circulating and emerging strains of the influenza by mass spectrometry and proteomics.


Associate Professor Kevin Downard

Research Location

School of Molecular Bioscience

Program Type



The influenza virus is one of only a few pathogens to cause significant disease and death throughout the world population on an annual basis across all age groups and races. Influenza contributes to some 250,000 deaths worldwide each year. The virus remains a leading cause of death in developed nations with some 5000 deaths attributed to the virus annually in Australia. On three occasions last century, worldwide pandemics have caused millions of deaths. There is a very real likelihood of a future pandemic particularly with the discovery that mutant forms of avian (bird) flu can develop in humans for which no immunity exists or is presently offered by vaccination. Type A influenza is particularly prevalent in humans and undergoes the fastest mutation rates in terms of the surface antigens hemagglutinin and neuraminidase. Present surveillance approaches employ a hemagglutinin inhibition assay that monitors the ability of the hemagglutinin antigen to cross-react with antibodies in anti-sera but provides no molecular detail, or PCR genetic analysis sequencing. We have developed a proteomics approach in which the virus is surveyed at the protein level in terms of the structure and antigencity of hemagglutinin and neuraminidase. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionisation (MALDI) mass spectrometryis used to monitor the cross-reactivity of whole virus or component antigens with monoclones. It is anticipated the approach will form part of an improved automated method for influenza virus surveillance that can also be performed in-field at the site of an outbreak with the aid of a portable instrument.

Additional Information

Techniques: MALDI mass spectrometry, protein microarrays, gel electrophoresis, centrifugation, chromatography, protein chemistry and enzymology, hemagglutinination assays Ph.D. topics:

  • Surveillance of the structure and antigenicity of type A and B influenza by mass spectrometry
  • Protein microarrays and chips for antigenic surveillance of the influenza virus
  • Comparison of the hemagglutinin inhibition assay with mass spectrometry in the surveillance and subtyping of the influenza virus
Scholarships: ARC funded scholarships or top-up scholarships may be available. Contact supervisor for details.

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influenza, respiratory infection, virus, mass spectrometry, Proteomics, microarray, protein, antigen, antibody, Cardiovascular & respiratory diseases, Infectious diseases, Cell biology, Infection & immunity

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 34

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