Vector and Waterborne Pathogens Group

Meet the team

Team Leaders

Professor Una Ryan

Professor Una Ryan

Professor Una Ryan is a Professor in Biochemistry and has been researching infectious agents particularly Cryptosporidium for over 24 years. Professor Ryan is an internationally-recognised scientist working on the transmission dynamics and taxonomy of Cryptosporidium and other infectious agents. She was the first person to identify that human cryptosporidiosis was primarily caused by 2 morphologically identical but clinically and genetically different species of Cryptosporidium; C. parvum and C. hominis and her research has been cited over 4,000 times. Her main international collaborators for Cryptosporidium have been Dr. Xiao from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, USA and Dr. Fayer from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Her contribution to this field was recognised in 2001 when she was awarded the national Minister’s Prize for Achievement in Life Sciences. She is the chief editor for the journal Parasitology Research, a member of the editorial board for Experimental Parasitology, and was a Guest Editor for a 2010 Special Issue of Experimental Parasitology on Cryptosporidiosis. In recognition of her contribution to the field of Cryptosporidium taxonomy, she has had a species of Cryptosporidium named after her; Cryptosporidium ryanae. Fayer, R. et al. 2008. Cryptosporidium ryanae n. sp. (Apicomplexa: Cryptosporidiidae) in cattle (Bos taurus). Vet Parasitol. 156:191-8.

Professor Ryan is the current Australian Socitey for Parasitology Vice President, 2019-2020 and the former President 2017-2019.

Prof. Ryan's publications

Contact details:

Phone: 61-8-9360 2482
Fax: 61-8-9310 4144

Peter J Irwin

Professor Peter Irwin

Prof. is an Professor in Small Animal Medicine. Dr Irwin is a founding director of the International Society for Companion Animal Infectious Diseases (ISCAID). He has advised Animal Biosecurity, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (formerly AQIS) regarding the importation of infectious diseases in companion animals and other matters pertaining to Australian quarantine regulations and protocol, and has also advised Biosecurity New Zealand (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry) regarding important of dogs with babesiosis.

Academic Interests: Prof. Irwin's current research interests include investigation into the clinical effects and diagnosis of various vector-borne diseases (Babesia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and Bartonella infections) of companion animals in Australia and SE Asia. His most recent research is focused on potentially zoonotic tick-borne diseases in Australia (see Vector-Borne Diseases below). One research project has been evaluating the role of dogs as sentinels for certain diseases, particularly borreliosis in Australia. Other research projects have involved native marsupials and other wildlife have focused on Theileria spp. infections of the Gilbert's Potoroo and the Brush-tailed Bettong (Woylie), and Babesia/Theileria infections in the Kiwi and various sea birds in New Zealand. A/Prof. Irwin teaches clinical parasitology and internal medicine to undergraduate veterinary students and is Academic Chair of the Postgraduate Coursework Programs in Small Animal Practice.

Prof. Irwin's publications

Contact details:

Phone: 61-8-9360 2590
Fax: 61-8-9310 4144

Dr. Charlotte Oskam

Dr. Charlotte Oskam

Senior Lecturer

In early 2013, Charlotte graduated with a PhD in Biological Sciences and Biotechnology from Murdoch University (MU). Charlotte’s PhD research and expertise focused on DNA isolation, amplification and sequencing of highly degraded specimens (paleontological and archaeological eggshell and bone), some of great antiquity (up to 20,000 years old).
Since completing her PhD, Charlotte has actively collaborated with Professors Una Ryan and Peter Irwin, co-directors of the Vector and Water-borne Pathogen Research group. Her experience with highly degraded specimens and low copy number DNA, combined with next generation sequencing, has been used for the detection of putative pathogens from minute specimens.
As an Early Career researcher, she has focused her research to develop a molecular toolkit using next generation sequencing technology to profile the bacterial communities within ticks to investigate tick-borne disease. More recently, Charlotte’s research involves the utilisation of archived museum specimens to investigate the presence, emergence and evolutionary history of native and introduced tick-borne diseases in Australia.
Charlotte was awarded the 2015 MU Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Research Award for Early Career Development and Achievement in Science.

Charlotte is a section editor for the journal, Parasitology Research.

Dr Oskam's publications

Contact details:
Phone: 61-8-9360 6349

Twitter: @DrCharOskam; @Cryptick_lab



Dr. Jill Austen


Thesis Title: Characterisation of novel trypanosome sp. in native Western Australian marsupials.

Jill completed her PhD in September 2016. She is currently employed as a part-time Post-doc in our lab.

Dr Austen's publications

Contact details:

Amanda Duarte Barbosa

Dr. Amanda Duarte Barbosa


Thesis Title: Diversity, clinical impacts and zoonotic potential of blood-borne and enteric protozoan parasites in Australian native mammals.

Amanda completed her PhD in 2018. She is currently employed as a part-time Post-doc in our lab.

Dr. Barbosa's publications                                             

Contact details:

Alireza Zahedi

Dr. Alireza Zahedi


Thesis Title: Innovative approaches to understanding and limiting the public health risks of Cryptosporidium and Giardia in animals in Australian catchments.

Alireza completed his PhD in September 2018 and he is currently employed as a Post-doc in our lab.

Dr. Ali's publications

Contact details:

Our Students

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Sylvia Afriyie Squire

PhD Candidate
Thesis Title: Molecular epidemiology of gastrointestinal parasites in farmers and their ruminant livestock in Ghana.

Sylvia’s research focuses on the prevalence and molecular characterisation of intestinal parasites (zoonotic and non-zoonotic) in farmers and their ruminant in Ghana.  Her study also aims to determine the clinical impact of these parasites in livestock and to identify the risk factors that expose both farmers and their livestock to infections. Data generated from this study will be relevant for recommendations towards more effective prevention and control of intestinal parasites of veterinary and public health importance in Ghana.

Sylvia's publications

Sylvia commenced her PhD in January 2014.

Telleasha Greay

Telleasha Greay

PhD Candidate

Thesis Title: A microbial survey of ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) associated with companion animals in Australia.

Telleasha completed Honours in Biomedical Science in 2014 with the Vector and Water-borne Pathogen Research Group; thesis entitled: “An investigation of Coxiella burnetii and Coxiella-like bacteria in the brown dog tick.” Her PhD research involves identifying tick species associated with companion animals (dogs, cats and horses) across Australia and investigating the bacterial and protozoan communities within these tick species using next-generation sequencing and other molecular techniques.

Telleasha's publications

Telleasha commenced her PhD in February 2015.


Kamil Braima

PhD Student

Thesis Title: Risk management of waterborne pathogens in public swimming pools and splash parks.

Kamil’s research focuses on the waterborne parasite: Cryptosporidium and the extent to which it contributes to outbreaks of gastroenteritis cases associated with public swimming pools in Australia using molecular tools. Kamil hopes to determine if the implementation of improved management guidelines will reduce the transmission of this important parasite as Cryptosporidium is resistant to chlorine and hence is the most important pathogen causing outbreaks of diarrhoea associated with swimming pools.

Kamil's publications

Kamil commenced his PhD in February 2017.


Siobhon Egan

PhD Student

Thesis Title: Australian tick-borne diseases – a one health approach.

Siobhon's project aims to understand the ecology of ticks and tick-borne pathogens in Australia. Recent discoveries from the Cryptick lab have identified a number of novel microbes present in Australian ticks. Using a multidisciplinary approach she hopes to investigate the epidemiology of these microbes in vertebrate hosts, providing insight into the in situ dynamics between host and tick. Siobhon's PhD research hopes to intersect areas such as ecology, parasitology, molecular biology and bioinformatics to provide insight into ticks and zoonotic tick-borne diseases in Australia.

Siobhon's publications

Honours project: Profiling the bacterial microbiome of ticks that parasitise Australian bandicoots.

Siobhon completed her Honours (first class) in 2017 and will commence her PhD studies with the group in March 2018.


Samantha Gunasekera

PhD Student

Thesis Title: Development and validation of a rapid detection and viability assay for Cryptosporidium using a novel gut-on-a-chip.

Samantha’s research aims to use an in vitro gut-on-a-chip microfluidic model to achieve continuous culture of the enteric parasite Cryptosporidium and develop this system as a detection tool that can be used by the Australian water industry. Human intestinal cells that are cultured on the gut-on-a-chip mimic the 3D morphology and movement of human intestinal epithelium in vivo, which cannot be achieved using traditional culture methods. Samantha aims to use this system to identify the culture conditions necessary for Cryptosporidium to grow throughout its complete life cycle and perpetuate this cycle continuously for the first time. Cryptosporidium cultured on the gut-on-a-chip will form the foundation for -omics studies that will allow further optimisation of the conditions required for Cryptosporidium growth. Samantha will then validate the use of the gut-on-a-chip as a detection and viability assay for Cryptosporidium in environmental water samples.

Samantha commenced her PhD in August 2019.

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Samuel Bolland

Honours Student

Thesis Title: Describing New Species of Cryptosporidium in Fish

Sam’s project is supervised by Professor Una Ryan and Dr Charlotte Oskam.

Sam commenced his honours in February 2018.


Aimee Carpenter

Honours Student

Thesis Title: Prevalence and Genetic Characterisation of Blood-borne Protozoan Parasites in a Range of South Australian Marsupials

This project aims to determine the prevalence and genetic diversity of Trypanosomes and Piroplasms (Babesia and Theileria) in a range of South Australian marsupial species using microscopy and molecular techniques. Furthermore, this data will investigate whether zoonotic species of blood-borne parasites are harboured by the animals tested. In addition the outcomes of this project will contribute to the surveillance of zoonotic pathogens in Australia.

Aimee’s project is supervised by Dr Amanda Barbosa, Professor Una Ryan and Dr Charlotte Oskam.

Aimee commenced her honours in February 2019.


Wenna Lee

Honours Student

Thesis Title: Molecular Characterisation of Candidatus Midichloria mitochondria

Wenna's project will involve developing an assay for the quick diagnosis of Candidatus Midichloria mitochondria (CMm) in human samples. Currently in Australia, thousands of people are suffering from debilitating symptoms complexes attributed to ticks (DSCATT) and it is unknown if immunological responses to microbes harboured and transmitted by these haematophagous arthropods, such as ticks like Ixodes Ricinus, are markers or drivers of diseases such as DSCATT. Additionally, advanced molecular techniques such as Sanger/NGS platform (illumina MiSeq) will be used for deep sequencing to perform phylogenetic analysis of Midichloria and like organisms(MALO). The molecularly characterised CMm found in Australian human patient samples will then be compared to CMm overseas and a spatial distribution of CMm within Australian ticks would be visualised.

Wenna’s project is supervised by Dr Charlotte Oskam, Dr Amanda Barbosa and Professor Peter Irwin.

Wenna commenced her honours in February 2019.


Ruby McKenna

Honours Student

Thesis Title: Bacterial community profiling of Australian reptile ticks.

Ruby’s project involves identifying tick species which parasitise Australian reptiles, with a focus on those that parasitise Western Australian bobtails (Tiliqua rugosa), and investigating the bacterial diversity harboured within the ticks. The project aims to use microscope-based parasitological techniques to identify the tick species and next generation sequencing for deep sequencing and metagenomics of the bacterial communities.

Sam’s project is supervised by Dr Charlotte Oskam and Professor Peter Irwin.

Ruby commenced her honours in February 2019.

Former students

Dr Siew May (Kim) Loh

Thesis Title: Identification and characterisation of potential tick-borne pathogens in wildlife ticks.

Kim's publications

Kim completed her PhD in July 2019.

Dr Alex Gofton

Thesis Title: Investigating the molecular systematics and epidemiology of novel tick-borne Anaplasmataceae bacteria in Australia.

Alex's publications

Alex completed his PhD in February 2019.

Dr Khalid Ab Habsi

Thesis Title: Molecular characterization of selected enteric pathogens in Rangeland goats in Western Australia.

Khalid's publications

Khalid completed his PhD in September 2018.

Dr Elvina Lee

Thesis Title: Molecular Systematics of Cyanobacteria.

Elvina's publications

Elvina completed her PhD in Feburary 2017.

Anna-Sheree Krige

Thesis Title: Unlocking archived ticks to investigate novel putative pathogens

Anna-Sheree completed her Honours (first class) in June 2017.

Jake Day

Thesis Title: An Audit of Molecular Assays to Screen Piroplasms in Australian Ticks

Jake completed his honours in December 2018.

Megan Evans

Thesis Title: Molecular barcoding of Australian ticks

Megan completed her Honours in December 2018.

Sarah Munns

Thesis Title: The Prevalence and Diversity of Blood-borne Parasites and Ticks from Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harrisii).

Sarah completed her Honours in December 2018.

Victoria Rawlings

Thesis Title: Veterinary and zoonotic infection risk associated with dam water on WA farms.

Victoria completed her honours in December 2018.

Jadyn Owens

Jadyn completed two Independent Study Contracts (ISC) during 2016-7.