Student Level: Honours or Masters

Members of theCryptococcus species complex (C. neoformans and C. gattii) are recognized as important pathogenic fungi of humans and other mammals throughout the world. Isolates of the Cryptococcus speciescomplex have been grouped into 8 major molecular types based on the PCR-fingerprinting, AFLP analysis, and URA5- and PLB1-RFLP analysis. Highly virulent strains have recently emerged in several parts of the world, leading to a number of outbreaks such as the recent ongoing one on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, resulting in an increased number of deaths. This makes it important to establish the global molecular epidemiology of the Cryptococcus species complex in order to investigate the emergence and the origin of highly virulent strains, to enable better predictions and public health responses for possible outbreaks. With this aim we have established in a Multilocus Sequence Typing (MLST) scheme and started a population genetic analysis to investigate the global molecular epidemiology of 220 selected isolates representing the 8 major molecular types of the Cryptococcus species complex. Future studies need to increase the number of isolates as well as to investigated if there is a link between genotype and virulence using animal models.

Aims:(1) To conduct a global analysis of the population genetic structure using MLST to identify specific subgenotypes. (2) To correlate the different genotypes obtained by MLST with virulence in a mice model.

Techniques: DNA extraction, PCR, sequencing, bioinformatics analysis, phylogenetic analysis, animal models.


Supervisor: Professor Wieland Meyer - wieland.meyer@sydney.edu.au