Thesis: Identifying invertebrate vector candidates of Australian wildlife trypanosomes
Trypanosomes are a group of flagellate protozoan parasites found worldwide, which are capable of causing disease in humans, domesticated animals and wildlife, and are most often transmitted by haematophagous (blood-feeding) invertebrates. In overseas countries, well known insect vectors of mammalian trypanosomes include triatomine (reduviid) bugs and tsetse flies, however ticks, mites, biting midges and leeches have also been implicated in vector studies.
In Australian wildlife, multiple trypanosome species have been found infecting individual animals, often with detrimental health effects. Moreover, several trypanosomes found in Australian wildlife appear to be closely related to the South American human pathogen Trypanosoma cruzi. Surprisingly, despite their negative impact on vulnerable native wildlife and the biosecurity risk posed by the potential for establishment of exotic trypanosome species in native wildlife, the invertebrate vectors of Australian trypanosomes presently remain unknown. This study therefore aims to investigate a number of invertebrates associated with Australian native wildlife to assess their potential as vectors of trypanosome species.
Why my research is important
This project is significant as the invertebrate vectors of Australian trypanosomes are presently unknown. Consequently, vital information about the life histories of Australia’s trypanosomes is incomplete and so the risk they pose to Australia’s vulnerable wildlife is uncertain. The outcomes from this research project will greatly advance parasitology studies by providing new knowledge regarding the identity of invertebrate vectors of Australian trypanosomes. Furthermore, this project will offer an insight into the development and life cycle of Australian trypanosomes within their invertebrate vector(s) for the first time.