Reproductive Infection and Immunity Research

The Reproductive Infection and Immunity Research Group at QUT includes senior researchers Professor Ken Beagley and Dr Alison Carey.

The group focuses on:

  1. The development and testing of vaccines for infections of the genital tract
  2. The effect of Chlamydia infection in humans and animals, particularly how male fertility is affected
  3. Examining group B streptococcus in pregnancy to determine the conditions that lead to maternal and neonatal infection
  4. Maintaining a Chlamydia strain collection suitable for testing therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines
  5. Developing and maintaining animal models to test infections of the genital tract

The group led the development of a vaccine for Chlamydia for koalas, which is now in use in a number of wildlife hospitals.

Develop and test vaccines for infections of the genital tract

Professor Ken Beagley reproductive immunologistProfessor Ken Beagley led the development of a vaccine for Chlamydia in the koala an iconic Australian marsupial. This is now being used extensively by wildlife hospitals and local councils, including Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, Dreamworld, Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, and Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre.

A human vaccine for Chlamydia trachomatis is currently in development.

The team is also contributing their vaccine and animal model expertise in a project to develop a Herpes vaccine. This orally-delivered vaccine is showing initial promise to reduce the severity and frequency of recurrent herpes infections.

Examine the effect of Chlamydia on the male reproductive system

Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection worldwide. The consequences in men are largely underestimated, and may contribute significantly to male infertility by reducing sperm production, motility and ability to fertilise the egg.

With support from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the team is investigating how chronic infections are established in the testis and how this affects male fertility. The team is also investigating how Chlamydia infections cause DNA damage in sperm that is passed on to offspring, resulting in reduced birth weight and reduced sperm production in subsequent generations.

Understand group B streptococcus infection during pregnancy

Dr Alison Carey, reproductive infection and immunity researcher

Dr Carey is seeking to understand group B strep’s effect on the maternal immune response and microbiome. Studies have shown that certain microbes are linked to colonization with group B strep. Dr Carey is examining whether the altered microbiome is the cause of the infection or the result of the infection. Dr Carey is also examining whether the consumption of a probiotic inhibits, encourages or has no effect on the colonization of group B strep.

Demonstrate methods of Chlamydia infection

The team’s comprehensive bank of Chlamydia strains and well-established animal models have contributed to research that demonstrated strains of Chlamydia can enter the bloodstream through the nose. If the infection accesses the brain through the olfactory nerve, there is evidence this may be implicated in Alzheimers disease.

New work is also showing the link between Chlamydia infection and dental caries.

The team also has models to examine the effects of long-term group B strep infection.