Immune mechanisms in resistance versus susceptibility to mycobacterial infection


The immune response to mycobacterial infection and the role of immune regulation in chronic disease will be examined using Johne’s disease (an internationally significant veterinary disease that has close parallels to human diseases including tuberculosis) as a model.


Professor Richard Whittington

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 man. This makes Johne’s disease, the disease caused by M.paratuberculosis in cattle and sheep, an excellent animal model for mycobacterial infections. Immune regulation is an important balance between clearing an infection and widespread destruction of the tissues by the immune response. Regulatory mechanisms have been found in conditions as diverse as autoimmune diseases, tumour immunity, transplant tolerance and responses to infection. The gut is a unique environment in terms of regulation as it is exposed to countless antigens, including commensal bacteria and food antigens. This project aims to use an established experimental infection model in cattle and sheep whereby 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.

Additional Information

This project will form part of a larger industry-funded project within a well-established group and has the opportunity to incorporate state-of-the-art proteomic, genomic and cellular techniques such as quantitative PCR, flow cytometry, laser capture microdissection, ELISPOT and fluorescence microscopy.  This opportunity is based at the Camden campus about 60 minutes drive from the main Sydney campus.  Camden is a semi-rural community on the south-western outskirts of Sydney. Applicants must be Australian or New Zealand citizens or permanent residents.

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Immune system, microbiology, mycobacteria, immune regulation, regulatory T cells, veterinary diseases, infection, immunity, inflammation, cytokines, gene expression, chronic disease, tuberculosis, Crohn’s., Infectious Disease, Chemokines

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 730

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