Professor Sorrell’s medical mycology research interests include: (a) basic research on the pathogenesis of invasive fungal infections using Cryptococcus neoformans as a model; (b) drug discovery; and (c) clinical and translational research. Her work has made major contributions to the understanding of cryptococcal disease in immunocompromised and immunocompetent hosts.
Prof Sorrell’s team identified phospholipase B (PLB) as a virulence determinant of C neoformans and its potential as a target for new drug development. Current work led by Dr Julie Djordjevic, Leader of the Fungal Pathogenesis Group, involves the study of other phospholipases in cryptococci, elucidating the secretory pathway of PLB using molecular techniques (as a basis for new drug development), and exploring the mechanisms by which cryptococci cross the blood-brain barrier to cause neurological disease. Molecular epidemiology research led by Professor Wieland Meyer employs genome sequencing to map determinants of habitat adaptation, virulence expression, clinical presentation and host response in cryptococcosis. Overall, the basic research program aims to understand geographic patterns of infection, identify new targets for diagnostic tests, and potential targets for therapeutic drugs and vaccines.
The Drug discovery program conducted in collaboration with Professor Kate Joliffe (Dept of Chemistry, University of Sydney) and more recently, Professor Kathy Belov (Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, University of Sydney), focuses on the development of new classes of antifungals. Clinical and translational research includes the development of rapid diagnostics for invasive fungal infections. Professor Sorrell and colleagues pioneered the application of MRS to non-invasive diagnosis of human brain infections and in the identification and susceptibility testing of microorganisms in clinical diagnostics, and pioneered biochemical profiling of cerebrospinal fluid for the diagnosis of meningitis. More recently her laboratory collaborated in the design and development of a PCR platform for rapid examination of DNA/RNA of up to 70 microorganisms simultaneously, with the resultant diagnostic sets being translated into clinical practice.
As Director of MBI, Prof Sorrell is involved in establishing cross-University research nodes relating to infections at the animal human interface, critical infections, drug resistance and biosecurity. Research nodes in common with the Charles Perkins Centre include studying the influence of dietary composition (over-nutrition and under-nutrition) on the gut, respiratory and oral microbiomes.