Improved detection and characterisation of flaviviruses and their antibodies in humans, animals and mosquitoes

What does this project mean for future pandemics?

  • Flaviviruses include a number of important viruses that are carried by mosquitoes and are common in our region.
  • These include viruses such as dengue, yellow fever and Zika viruses and others that can cause inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).
  • These flaviviruses and others that emerge in the future are:
    • high on the list of infections that may enter and establish themselves in Australia
    • a threat to Australians who travel in the Asia–Pacific region.
  • In order to better understand how these viruses spread and how they affect human and animal health, we need to be able to easily and reliably identify people who have been infected.
  • The tests currently available are either too inaccurate or too difficult and expensive. The lack of easy and reliable blood tests to detect human and animal antibodies for different types of flavivirus (serology) limits our ability to understand and predict health impacts.
  • This project aims to develop simple blood tests for antibodies to the virus that can:
    •  confidently identify which particular virus has infected people
    •  be adapted for new flaviviruses that may emerge.
  • The antibody assays will be tested first to assess their accuracy in the laboratory, and then transferred to devices that can be used at the bedside or close to the point of patient care (point-of-care devices).
  • As all of the flaviviruses in our region are carried by mosquitoes, it is important that we are able to quickly and accurately detect these viruses if they get into Australia and into our mosquito population.
  • This information will tell us:
    • where the infected mosquitoes are located
    • who is at risk of infection
    • how we should target our efforts to control the spread.
  • We will also develop and assess tests (using the latest molecular techniques) to detect new and current flaviviruses in mosquitoes.

Project details

The project’s objectives are to:

  • identify antibody binding sites that are specific to a single virus species and can be used for detection of antibodies to that virus in human and animal sera
  • transfer this ability to differentiate between viruses to point-of-care platforms
  • provide improved nucleic acid detection methods for flaviviruses in trapped mosquitoes.

Project outcomes include:

  • delivering potential species-specific antibody targets for incorporation into laboratory-based and point-of-care tests for IgG and IgM antibodies for surveillance and diagnostic purposes in humans and animals. These can progress to diagnostic evaluation in APPRISE-associated laboratories, with collaborating groups in Indonesia, Malaysia and PNG, and via future collaborations at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory and Columbia University.
  • identifying critical enhancements required for the performance, assessment and quality monitoring of tests for detection of arboviruses in trapped mosquitoes. This is expected to be integrated into the testing currently performed in Australia, and used for ongoing quality monitoring and improvement through formal external quality assurance programs.
  • progressing improved methods for virus detection in mosquitoes to provide to the National Arbovirus and Malaria Advisory Committee (NAMAC) – several laboratories are keen to participate in further exercises. There is a clear translational pathway through jurisdictions and via NAMAC and the Communicable Diseases Network (CDNA). It is expected that improvements will be assessed and incorporated into the existing mosquito surveillance programs run in APPRISE-associated laboratories.

Related Research Areas

  • Laboratory research

Related Cross-cutting Themes

  • Partnerships, collaboration and translation