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Established more than 50 years ago, Monash University is Australia's largest university with 58,000 students at its six Australian campuses and its international campuses in Malaysia and South Africa. Monash delivers impact from its innovation to industry
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Previous Epidemics conference-Epidemics5: Fifth International Conference on Infectious Disease Dynamics : Previous Epidemics Conferences
Prof. Scott O'Neill, Monash University, Australia
Speaker-Epidemics5: Fifth International Conference on Infectious Disease Dynamics : Speakers
Prof. Scott O'Neill,Monash University, Australia
Scott O'Neill obtained his PhD in Entomology from The University of Queensland in 1989 before moving to the University of Illinois as a postdoc.
From Illinois he joined the Faculty at Yale University where he became the Head of the Section of Vector Biology before returning to Australia and the University of Queensland.
At UQ he was Head of the Zoology Department and then Head of the School of Biological Sciences.
In 2011 he joined Monash University as the Dean of Science.
APCMV 2012 - managed by sapmea
Dean, Faculty of Science, Monash University
Professor Scott O'Neill is researching the biology of bacterial parasites of invertebrates.
lab focuses on the biology of Wolbachia, an inherited bacterial parasite of invertebrates.
Scott O'Neill, dean of ...
Scott O'Neill, dean of science at Monash University and head of an international Wolbachia research collaboration called Eliminate Dengue, has been releasing Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes in Australia for the past four years and is also conducting releases in Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil (see related Scientific American story).
But in those cases O'Neill is not trying to wipe out the mosquito population.
Instead, he releases mosquitoes of both sexes that are infected with the bug (thus the eggs will still hatch as normal but will harbor Wolbachia inside them).
His hope is actually to establish the bacterium among many generations of mosquitoes in the wild because his Wolbachia plan hinges on another biological quirk of the bacterium-it limits mosquitoes' ability to pass on dengue.
VIETNAM RELEASES DENGUE-BLOCKING MOSQUITO 1070
The germ has fascinated scientist Scott O'Neill his entire career.
He started working with it about two decades ago at Yale University.
But it wasn't until 2008, after returning to his native Australia, that he had his eureka moment.
One of his
research students figured out how to implant the bacteria into a mosquito so it could be passed on to future generations.
The initial hope was that it would shorten the insect's life.
But soon, a hidden benefit was discovered: Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes not only died quicker but they also blocked dengue partially or entirely, sort of like a natural vaccine.
"The dengue virus couldn't grow in the mosquito as well if the Wolbachia was present," says O'Neill, dean of science at Monash University in Melbourne.
Wolbachia also blocks other mosquito-borne diseases such as yellow fever and chikungunya, O'Neill
Similar research is being conducted for malaria, though that's trickier because the disease is carried by several different types of mosquitoes.
It's unclear why mosquitoes that transmit dengue do not naturally get Wolbachia, which is found in up to 70 percent of insects in the wild.
doesn't believe that purposefully infecting mosquitoes will negatively impact ecosystems.
says the key to overcoming skepticism is to be transparent with research while providing independent risk analyses and publishing findings in high-caliber scientific journals.
"I think, intuitively, it makes sense that it's unlikely to have a major consequence of introducing Wolbachia into one more species," O'Neill
says, adding that none of his
work is for profit.
"It's already in millions already."