Dr Jody Hobson-Peters
A rapid test for a deadly mosquito-borne virus is being developed by a UQ research team in partnership with diagnostic/pharmaceutical company HA Tech.
The Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) point-of-care human diagnostics test would be the first of its kind, addressing an urgent health need.
“As a result of Australia’s worst JEV outbreak in 2022, several people were hospitalised with serious neurological disease, and sadly there were a number of deaths from the infection,” project lead Dr Jody Hobson-Peters said.
“This unprecedented outbreak infected more than 80 piggeries across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.”
Dr Hobson-Peters and her team have developed technology called ChimerDx that enables them to engineer the benign Binjari virus to appear identical to pathogenic viruses, such as JEV.
The chimeric virus is specific to insects and cannot grow in humans or animals, meaning new diagnostic blood tests for mosquito-borne viruses can be safely developed and manufactured.
The UQ team is also using ChimerDx to develop a more sensitive and sophisticated diagnostic test for the debilitating dengue virus.
“While dengue is problematic in northern parts of Australia, the proposed diagnostic would also help endemic countries manage its spread, particularly where there is a lack of access to effective treatment,” Dr Hobson-Peters said.
HA Tech is an Australian-based company with a focus on developing innovative diagnostics for serious infectious diseases.
Dr Hobson-Peters is an Advance Queensland Senior Research Fellow in UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.
Image: Vice-Chancellor and President of The University of Queensland, Professor Deborah Terry AO (left) with Dr Jody Hobson-Peters (right).