Test for gastro-causing parasite a step closer thanks to industry collaboration

November 29, 2016

Emeritas Professor Andy ThompsonA new technique is being developed to identify the differing strains of the gastro-causing parasite Giardia by Murdoch University researchers in collaboration with industry.

The academics successfully used a method developed for blood tests, known as Promarker, to map samples of Giardia, discovering protein ‘fingerprints’ that can distinguish between the different strains.

“It is important to be able to discriminate between the strains because some just infect dogs, whereas others can also infect humans,” said Emeritus Professor of Parasitology Andy Thompson, from Murdoch’s School of Veterinary and Life Sciences.

“The different strains all look the same under the microscope so the successful proof of concept testing is a significant step forward on the way to developing a commercial diagnostic test for Giardia.”

Promarker was developed by Perth-based life sciences company Proteomics International Laboratories Ltd (PILL), and applied to Giardia in partnership with Murdoch as a result of an Australian Research Council Linkage grant awarded in 2010. The proof of concept study has been carried out with Murdoch and a leading US veterinary company.

This collaboration will now be extended with the support of a $45,000 grant from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, with the aim of developing a test for Giardia which can be performed in any pathology laboratory.

The grant is helping to fund the employment of a research scientist at PILL and Murdoch to support the project.

Infection with Giardia causes an illness called giardiasis. It is common in dogs and can transfer to humans via infected cysts released in dog faeces, which go on to contaminate the environment. The cysts can also attach to the infected dog’s coat.

“Symptoms of giardiasis in humans include diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and nausea and can last for months,” added Professor Thompson, who helped to develop a drug to treat Giardia in humans.

“It is one of the most common diseases carried by water, and more than half of all cases involve infants and children under the age of five.”

Professor Thompson said Murdoch researchers have been collaborating with PILL for many years, and this was a great example of the University’s translational research strength in health.

“As a partner in this venture, Murdoch will benefit from the successful commercialisation of the test,” he added.

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