Research Staff


A/Prof David Emery

Professor David Emery
David is Faculty’s ProDean. David graduated from Sydney and has devoted 25 years to ruminant mucosal immunity, disease pathogenesis and vaccination for exotic and endemic infectious diseases and gastrointestinal nematodes, with several periods in Africa. He defined cell-mediated cytotoxicity for protective immunity against Theileria parva (East Coast fever), determined protective epitopes on Dichelobacter nodosus pili (ovine footrot) and characterised leucocidins of Fusobacterium necrophorum (foot abscess). He led the first project team developing recombinant vaccines for worm parasites of sheep, produced and trialled several protective antigens and identified allergic (Th2) responses as the protective mechanism in natural infections. David also has experience with biosecurity, import/export quarantine, animal health policy formulation, negotiation and operations. At Biosecurity Australia, David developed import risk analyses for importation of wool and fibres as well as zoo Bovidae and was responsible for trade negotiations for market access of live ruminants exported from Australia to northern Asia.

David’s current research interests are mucosal immunobiology of infectious and parasitic disease. He was appointed in 2004 to lead the “Host Resistance to Internal Parasites” subprogram in the Sheep Genomics Program (SGP), funded by Meat & Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovations. In this consultancy role, he coordinates research projects involving discovery and characterisation of genes responsible for worm resistance in sheep, develops research initiatives, reports and interfaces directly with senior staff in rural industry research and producer bodies.
More information..

Dr Jan Slapeta

Dr Jan Slapeta

Jan graduated in 2002, with a PhD in Veterinary Parasitology in the Czech Republic after completing his veterinary degree in 1999 (MVDr). In 2001, Jan moved to the United States to conduct postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health, US (Fogarty Fellowship), until 2003. Following this, he moved to France to accept a research only Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the French Research Council (CNRS) in Orsay, France (2003-05). He then moved to Australia in 2005 to take up a Research Fellowship at the University of Technology’s (Sydney), Institute for the Biotechnology of Infectious Diseases (2005–07). Following that he joined the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney in 2007. On moving to Sydney he established a new parasitological laboratory “Molecular and Diagnostic Parasitology” with a focus on emerging protozoan parasites and evolutionary protistology.

Jan combines state-of-the-art molecular applications with his knowledge of parisitology to redefine existing and describe new parasitic species and life cycles, and to understand their origin. He have described 23 new species in seven genera, one genus and one new phylum, including his co-authored Nature paper on Chromera velia, the closest free-living organism to apicomplexa that cause malaria and toxoplasmosis. The Fogarty Fellow enabled Jan to exploit surrogate organisms and thus to overcome the challenge of translocating a protein into mitochondria of organisms including Cryptosporidium. His publication was instrumental in the discovery of a relic mitochondrion in this protozoan parasite, as one of the journal reviewers stated, this “puts any doubt as to the presence of a mitochondrion in Cryptosporidium to rest”.

During parasites’ life cycle, parasites undergo morphological development which may disguise their morphological identification. Unambiguously identifying disease agents is the pivotal prerequisite for identifying their hosts and tissue specificity. I developed a rapid molecular method that was instrumental in enabling researchers and practitioners to reliably distinguish pathogenic Neospora caninum and non-pathogenic Hammondia heydorni in dogs. This advance – based on PCR using species-specific oligonucleotides – resulted from my field and laboratory investigations into the evolutionary biology of cyst-forming coccidia that can infect all vertebrates. The method is now in standard use at many institutions for research and clinical purposes.

Dispersal and biogeography are the key characteristics of pathogens and free living organisms, which may serve as pathogen vectors. Jan pioneered the use of multilocus sequencing to identify globally dispersed protozoa, which he achieved by devising novel markers to determine the genetic identity of ubiquitous marine alga Micromonas pusilla. This research led to the first sampling of a free-living protozoon globally rather than locally to determine genetic identity. His work was a critical part of the selection process for a major genome project that compared two distinct genotypes of M. pusilla.

Jan has created his own website called iCRYPTO which attempts to combine the old and new data regarding the systematics and taxonomy of intracellular parasites of the genus Cryptosporidium (Apicomplexa). This will enable anyone working on the genus to do so without fear of duplication and with a full understanding of the known sequencing and naming of that organism. This page can be found at http://www.vetsci.usyd.edu.au/staff/JanSlapeta/icrypto/.

Jan is current NSW representative for the Australian Society for Parasitology.
More information..

Dr Graeme Brown

Dr Graeme Brown

Graeme graduated in Veterinary Science from the University of Sydney in 1967. After graduation, Graeme worked for nearly 2 years in the NSW Department of Agriculture as a veterinary officer and in late 1968, he became an assistant in a small animal practice in Newcastle. After 18 months in practice in Newcastle, he travelled to Great Britain and spent two years as a locum in various mixed and small animal practices throughout the United Kingdom. On returning to Australia in 1972, Graeme established Merewether Veterinary Hospital which is a companion animal practice in Newcastle suburb.

Graeme has a particular interest in the diseases and surgery of wildlife and in 1988, was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study in USA, Great Britain and France. Graeme’s PhD thesis, titled ‘Dogs, Dwellings and Disease’ which was awarded in 2006, grew out of observations made during visits to remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia in the 1990s to treat the dogs for internal and external parasites.  The overcrowding of both dogs and people in the houses and the poor waste water disposal were found to encourage the survival of enteric organisms such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium and Giardia in the dogs. Sarcoptes scabiei var canis and the Brown Dog Tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus also benefited from the overcrowding in the houses.

The most significant finding in this study was the detection of tick-borne diseases in the dogs, one of them being canine cyclic thrombocytopenia due to Anaplasma platys. This was the first detection and published description of this rickettsial organism in Australia and the first report of the impact on platelet numbers associated with the Australian strain of A platys in dog populations. By using highly sensitive and specific 16S rDNA-based PCR assays, molecular evidence was obtained during this study for the widespread occurrence of the tick-borne organisms A platys and B canis vogeli in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and North-Western New South Wales.  It also established that there was serological evidence in the people of having been exposed to tick-borne diseases.

From 2007 and 2010, Graeme has been an ARC Research Fellow working with the ‘Healthy Dogs – Healthy Communities’ team based in the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney. This has involved looking at the links between dog health and human health in the remote communities of Ti Tree and Nguiu NT, Yarrabah Qld, Bidyadanga WA and Collarenebri and Goodooga in NSW. Graeme is currently employed as a Research Fellow in Veterinary Parasitology, and has a continued research interest in zoonotic diseases. He is currently involved with the molecular detection of Giardia duodenalis, Cryptosporidium spp, Strongyloides stercoralis and Ancylostoma ceylanicum (in collaboration with UQ) in dogs living in these remote communities.
More information..