CIE Seminar Series – 2022: Buruli ulcer: an Australian zoonosis?

DATE & TIME: Friday 24th June 2022 @ 12pm.

LOCATION: Via Zoom. Click HERE to connect (Meeting ID: 813 0275 8867, Password: 01175415).

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In recent years reported cases of Buruli ulcer (BU), caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans (MU), have increased substantially in Victoria, Australia, with the epidemic also expanding geographically. Previous studies suggest that BU may be a zoonotic disease in Australia, but how this pathogen circulates in the environment and transmits to humans is still poorly understood.

Here I will discuss the role animals and vectors may play in the environmental circulation of MU and will present findings from a recent case-control study. Using questionnaires and environmental sampling, this study aimed to identify behavioural and environmental risk factors by analysing data collected from recent BU cases and postcode-matched controls and their respective residential properties. The findings from this study provide further support for the hypothesis that MU is zoonotic in Victoria, with ringtail possums the strongest reservoir host candidate.


Kim Blasdell is an infectious disease scientist with a focus on zoonotic viruses. Her initial studies were in Zoology at the university of Liverpool, where she conducted an honours project on the shedding behaviour of snakes. After graduation she undertook a PhD at the same institution, studying the rodent-borne viruses, LCMV and cowpox virus, in their natural hosts.

Her first position after this was as the research coordinator for Frontier’s Cambodian project, which saw her living in the jungle for a year supervising volunteers and conducting biodiversity assessments. After some time spent travelling she returned to Cambodia as a postdoc at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge. Her focus this time was on rodent-borne pathogens in rapidly changing environments. As part of this project she identified two novel arenaviruses, one of which was tentatively associated with disease in humans.

Kim moved to CSIRO to start her second postdoc in 2010, changing her research focus to arboviruses, particularly those affecting cattle. During this time she developed her skills in NGS and characterised several little known arboviruses. On completion of this project she continued at CSIRO as a research scientist, continuing to study livestock-associated arboviruses, but also returning to rodent-borne viruses.In conjunction with Dr Cadhla Firth (now at EcoHealth), she recently conducted a project looking at the impact of urbanisation on rodent-borne pathogens.

Her current research focus is on understanding the ecology and potential transmission routes of Mycobacterium ulcerans, the agent of Buruli ulcer, and on the ecology of several vector-borne diseases.

As a courtesy, we request that when connecting to the seminar that you mute your microphone unless you are required to speak, this would ensure that the sound from the speaker to the audience is not disrupted by feedback from your microphone.

Thanking you in advance!

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