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Articles categorized as ‘James Cook University Research Programs’

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

JCU researchers say rural children’s oral health in question

James Cook University researchers say children in rural Queensland are three times more likely to be admitted to hospital for dental problems than in other parts of the state.

The team from JCU’s Anton Breinl Research Centre for Health Systems Strengthening, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, looked at three rural communities within 400 kilometres of Townsville. The names of the towns have not been publicly released.

JCU researchers say rural children's oral health in question

Dr Karen Carlisle (Photo: JCU)

Dr Karen Carlisle said although these communities were better served than those in more remote locations, access to services was still an issue for many community members.

“Children under 14 were three times more likely to be hospitalised for dental conditions when compared to residents of the rest of Queensland,” she said.

Dr Carlisle said JCU researchers had been working in the communities for a number of years and suspected overall oral health was poor, but now they had the hard data to back this up.

She said they had some unexpected results, too.

“Indigenous persons living in Queensland as a whole are already more than three times as likely to be hospitalised for a dental condition than non-Indigenous people,” said Dr Carlisle. “But this pattern worsened only slightly in the particular rural communities we looked at.”

The researchers said that parents or caregivers play a crucial role in influencing children’s oral health and rural children under 14 years may not be accessing public oral health services in proportion to their need. They said strengthening health promotion though schools, community events and primary health care is vital.

Co-author Professor Sarah Larkins said there were a number of recognised reasons for the poor oral health of rural communities and that the social determinants of health play a major role.

“There are problems with the retention of the oral health workforce in rural areas and reduced availability of oral health services. There may be less access to fluoridated water and the social determinants of ill health, such as poverty and low levels of education, are all more prevalent in rural and remote areas.”

She said the stoicism of rural people and difficulties in accessing care tended to encourage them to tolerate oral health problems until they became acute.

Professor Larkins said the findings highlight the vital importance of a collaborative approach to planning and service delivery to improve oral health for rural communities.

JCU partners with communities in research to try to make services work better for people living and working in the bush. This extends to frontline engagement too.

“The university sends its health professional students, including dentistry students, to remote and rural regions on placements, to do outreach in schools and encourages its graduates to return back to rural and remote areas to work after graduation,” said Professor Larkins.

Dr Felicity Croker said the communities JCU has focused on have been very receptive to working with students and academics.

“They have really taken charge of improving the oral health in their community, particularly for the younger members of their community.  Engaging these communities in changing the direction of their own health care means that the changes are more likely to be appropriate and sustainable.”

By Prof Larkins

JCU Bachelor of Dental Surgery

The BDS program at JCU is a five-year undergraduate degree that provides students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to become competent practitioners of dentistry. It is a broad-based program which includes all aspects of dental practice but also has a special focus on issues of special concern to the northern Australian region, particularly those relating to tropical, rural and Indigenous practice.

Program: Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS)
Location: Cairns, Queensland
Semester intake: February
Duration: 5 years
Application deadline: August 30, 2017

Entry requirements

1. High School

These qualifications are considered on an individual basis, subject to satisfying prerequisite requirements.

  • A minimum of 92% average from grade 12 subjects.
  • Completion of prerequisites in English, Calculus, and Chemistry at a grade 12 level or higher.

2. Partially or fully completed undergraduate degree

A high level of academic standard is required for entry.

  • Students need to have met the prerequisite subjects at least at the high school level to meet the prerequisite requirements.
  • A minimum of 80% cumulative average across all university studies is required.

Please note the DAT is not required for entry into the Bachelor of Dental Surgery program.

Apply to JCU Dental School!


Learn more about JCU Dental School! For more information, contact OzTREKK’s Australian Dental Schools Admissions Officer Adam Smith at adam@oztrekk.com.

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

JCU opens Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine building

Study medicine at JCU, get brand-new facilities!

Australian research into tropical health and medicine has received a major boost with the opening of a $31M world-class infectious diseases research facility at James Cook University’s Townsville campus.

JCU opens Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine building

JCU has officially opened the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine building (Credit: JCU)

On Oct. 7, the Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk officially opened the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine’s (AITHM) new facilities.

AITHM Townsville will undertake research into tropical infectious diseases and will develop vaccines, diagnostic tools, and the identification of bacterial pathogens.

James Cook University Vice Chancellor, Professor Sandra Harding said AITHM is a crucial element of JCU’s goal to create a brighter future for people living in the tropics, and the opening of the Townsville facilities cements Australia’s position as a global leader in tropical health and medicine.

“JCU has a proud history of research and development relevant to the tropics, and the research AITHM undertakes will improve health in the tropics both within Australia and worldwide.

“There are extraordinary opportunities for Australian tropical medicine given Northern Australia’s proximity to the fast-growing nations of the Asia-Pacific region,” Professor Harding said.

AITHM’s Director, Professor Louis Schofield said research programs underway within AITHM include identification, prevention and better treatments for tuberculosis, development of malaria vaccines and peripheral artery disease.

“The Institute will build essential research programs in tropical health and medicine for Australia and the region, specifically building important biosecurity capacity for Northern Australia.

“Our tropical locations and capabilities make a significant contribution to Queensland’s competitive advantage in knowledge-based industries directly relevant to Asia and the Pacific in the areas of research, research training, and the transfer and commercialisation of research findings.”

The Townsville facility and research undertaken within it will

  • focus on re-emerging bacterial diseases for which tropical Queenslanders are at significant risk, including tuberculosis, meliodosis and Q fever, and on communicable disease diagnostics and control;
  • provide a bio-bank facility for clinical and epidemiological samples;
  • engage new high-quality biomedical research staff to join existing researchers;
  • host visiting experts (visitors and trainees will include participants from Australia and from neighbouring countries);
  • train and mentor young researchers and health professionals involved in translating innovation into practice; and
  • accommodate proof-of-concept work leading to commercialisation opportunities.

Facilities include world-class physical containment laboratories for the safe handling of hazardous microorganisms (PC2 and PC3 laboratories). The PC3 laboratory will be used to for research into tuberculosis.

The building also includes a Translational Research Facility, which will allow patients to undergo clinical trials of research findings, improving the delivery of health care for those living in tropical regions.

It will also provide space for researchers in key supporting disciplines, including biostatistics, epidemiology, bioinformatics and health economics.

The Queensland Government has invested $21.49M in AITHM Townsville and the Federal Government has provided funding of $8M, via the Australian Research Council’s Special Research Initiative Scheme.

Study medicine at JCU Medical School

JCU Medical School offers an undergraduate-entry medical program that specializes in rural, remote and indigenous medicine and is located in north Queensland, Australia. Rather than having to earn a bachelor degree first, undergraduate-entry medical programs allow students to enter directly from high school. If you have completed high school studies or would like to apply to a medical school in Australia without using your MCAT score, you may wish to learn more about undergraduate-entry medical programs offered by Australian universities.

Program: Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery
Location: Townsville, Queensland
Next semester intake: February 2018
Duration: 6 years
Application deadline: Generally the end of August each year

Apply now to James Cook University Medical School!


Would you like more information about studying medicine at JCU Medical School? Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Medical Schools Officer Courtney Frank at courtney@oztrekk.com.

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

JCU environmental researchers say world wilderness declining

A research team including environmental sciences Professor William Laurance from James Cook University has discovered there has been a catastrophic decline in global wilderness areas during the past 20 years.

Sydney Dental School

An altiplano wilderness high in the Colombian Andes. (Photo: William Laurance)

The team showed that since the 1990s, one-tenth of all global wilderness has vanished—an area twice the size of Alaska. The Amazon and Central Africa have been hardest hit.

The findings underscore an urgent need for international policies to recognise the value of wilderness and to address unprecedented threats to it, the researchers said.

“Environmental policies are failing the world’s vanishing wildernesses,” said Professor Laurance.

“Despite being strongholds for imperiled biodiversity, regulating local climates, and sustaining many indigenous communities, wilderness areas are vanishing before our eyes.”

The research team, led by James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Queensland, mapped biologically and ecologically intact landscapes free of any significant human disturbance around the globe. The researchers then compared their current map of the wilderness to one produced by the same means in the early 1990s.

Their updated map shows that 30 million square kilometres (23 percent of the world’s land area) still survives as wilderness, with the majority being located in North America, North Asia, North Africa and Australia.

However, an estimated 3.3 million square kilometres of wilderness area was destroyed in the past 20 years. Losses have been greatest in South America, which suffered a 30 percent loss of its wilderness, and Africa, which experienced a 14 percent loss.

“The amount of wilderness lost in just two decades is both staggering and saddening. International policies are urgently needed to maintain surviving wilderness before it’s too late. We probably have just one or two decades to turn this crisis around,” said Professor Laurance.

Prof. Laurance said the United Nations and other international bodies have ignored globally significant wilderness areas in key multilateral environmental agreements, and that has to change.

“Once a wilderness is lost, it almost never comes back,” said Prof. Laurance. “The only option is to proactively protect the wilderness we have left.”

Reference: James Watson, Danielle Shanahan, Moreno Di Marco, James Allan, William Laurance, Eric Sanderson, Brendan Mackey, and Oscar Venter. 2016. “Catastrophic Declines in Wilderness Areas Undermine Global Environment Targets”.  Current Biology, http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(16)30993-9 /  DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.08.049′


Learn more about the interesting and challenging environmental sciences programs available at JCU. Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Environmental Sciences Admissions Officer Shannon Tilston at shannon@oztrekk.com.

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

JCU says new thinking needed on environmental campaigns

James Cook University researchers are fine-tuning better ways to motivate people to look after the environment.

They say that current social marketing techniques have little impact on changing people’s behaviour towards the environment.

JCU says new thinking needed on environmental campaigns

JCU says new thinking needed on environmental campaigns (Photo credit: Tangaroa Blue)

The JCU research team ran surveys of visitors to Reef HQ in Townsville measuring people’s intentions—and then six months later surveyed them on how environmentally friendly their actions actually were.

The researchers identified waste plastics as a major threat to marine life and focused their questions on whether and how people were going to reduce their use of plastic bags.

“People had good intentions, but six months later we found that life had often gotten in the way and they had not followed up with effective action,” said JCU marketing expert, Professor Lynne Eagle.

Professor Eagle said the research showed that just providing information was not effective and that people both needed and wanted to be regularly reminded that rubbish that goes into drains or landfills often ends up in rivers and oceans.

They also identified the need for businesses to provide environmentally friendly alternatives and communication at the point of sale to encourage positive behaviours.

Professor Eagle said marketing theory had more sophisticated techniques available to encourage people to care for the environment.

“There have been very successful social marketing campaigns with clear theoretical underpinnings—the 2007 campaign to reduce water use in drought-struck southeast Queensland and ended up reducing the region’s water use by more than 22 per cent,” she said.

Professor Eagle said fishers in Victoria were also reached with the successful ‘seal the loop’ campaign that encouraged the disposal of old fishing gear in an environmentally friendly way.

The researchers are currently designing a new test campaign for ferry passengers travelling to Townsville’s Magnetic Island, with the aim of convincing the island’s more than 2,000 permanent residents, as well as visitors, to become plastic bag free.

  • Plastic waste makes up 80 percent of marine and coastal waste.
  • Ten percent of that is whole or fragmented plastic bags.
  • 4–5 trillion plastic bags are produced each year.


Study environmental sciences at JCU. Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Environmental Sciences Admissions Officer Shannon Tilston at shannon@oztrekk.com for more information.

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

JCU diabetes researcher heads to Toronto

James Cook University Diabetes researcher Sean Taylor is heading to Canada and Germany in search of ways to improve care and management of diabetes in the remote islands of the Torres Strait.

Mr Taylor leaves Cairns this week on a seven-week study tour, supported by a $5,000 Heart Foundation Collaboration and Exchange Award.

JCU diabetes researcher heads to Toronto

JCU Diabetes researcher Sean Taylor (Photo: JCU)

“The Torres Strait region has Australia’s highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes, with one third of the adult population affected,” he said.

“Patients and medical staff also face the added problems of being in a remote location, where many of the healthy food choices recommended for diabetics are not necessarily available or affordable.”

Originally from the Torres Strait, Mr Taylor is a Research Fellow and Doctor of Public Health candidate at James Cook University’s Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention.

He will visit the Banting & Best Diabetes Centre in Toronto, Canada’s leading centre of excellence for innovation in diabetes research, education, and clinical care.

“They’re an important collaborator for us because Canada’a First Nations people face chronic disease problems similar to those experienced by Torres Strait Islanders, and also because of similarities between the Australian and Canadian health systems,” he said.

In Canada Mr Taylor will focus on the behavioural aspects of diabetes management, including patients’ reluctance to use insulin after their doctors have prescribed it.

“There are many reasons for this, and we need to understand it better because it’s a serious barrier to those patients getting the best care available.

“People with diabetes can achieve a good quality of life, if the disease is well managed, so we need to find the smartest and most effective ways to help them do that.”

At the University of Duisburg Essen in Germany Mr Taylor will consult with experts in the use of digital and social media to promote health.

“As well as suffering a higher rate of type 2 diabetes, Torres Strait Islanders with diabetes have much poorer outcomes compared with the non-Indigenous population,” he said.

“The team I’ll be meeting with in Germany has expertise not just in using digital media to support health and medical care, but also in carefully evaluating the usage of social media.

“I hope to find new ways to use those tools to help improve the connection between Torres Strait Islander diabetics and their health and medical support networks.

“For example, if we could improve the rate of people returning to the clinic for check-ups, and encourage more to take their medication consistently, that would make a big difference to their long-term health.”

Mr Taylor says that despite the worrying statistics for type 2 diabetes in the Torres Strait, there is some good news.

“It’s important to focus on those positive achievements, and to share them. People living on Murray Island, for example, have an excellent source of healthy protein in the sardines, which they catch in great numbers.

“Finding affordable and healthy food can be a challenge in a remote area, and digital and social media might provide some ways to share news of what’s working well on different islands.”

JCU School of Public Health

The JCU School of Public Health ensures the program undertakes high-quality and relevant teaching, research and training in population health, with a special focus on the tropics, northern Australia, Indigenous Australia and Australia’s near neighbours.

James Cook University is famous for its focus on tropical and remote health and medicine and provides several programs unique to Australia. James Cook University has

  • the Anton Breinl Centre for Public Health and Tropical Medicine, which is one of the leading tropical research facilities in the world;
  • teaching staff awarded the Australian Learning Teaching Councils’ National Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning; and
  • cutting-edge teaching laboratories and research facilities.


Would you like more information about studying public health at James Cook University? Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Public Health Schools Admissions Officer Adam Smith at adam@oztrekk.com.

Monday, May 30th, 2016

JCU research leader wins top science honour

One of James Cook University’s top researchers has received Australia’s most prestigious science honour, the fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science.

JCU research leader wins top science honour

Australian Academy of Science Fellow, Distinguished Professor David Bellwood (Photo: Richard Davis, JCU Media)

The Academy announced the election of Distinguished Professor David Bellwood as Fellow for his sustained and significant contributions to Australian science.

Professor Bellwood is the fifth JCU professor to be elected to the Academy. He said it’s an honour to join the elite, 500-strong Fellowship.

“It’s a wonderful feeling. I’m delighted to be part of a fellowship that includes so many people that I admire and respect. It’s an absolute treat!”

Professor Bellwood is a leading expert on the evolution and ecology of reef fishes. The central theme of his research is to understand the functional role that fishes play on coral reefs, and how reefs have changed through evolutionary time.

David Bellwood said he has always been fascinated by marine life.

“Coral reefs are one of the most important ecosystems in the world. In Australia they’re worth billions of dollars to our economy, and around the world millions of people rely on coral reefs for a source of nutrition and income.

“For me, I like to look at fishes as machines. I like to see the way they operate and this gives us a new understanding of how reefs are working.”

He said one of the best parts of his job is to teach the next generation of scientists.

“The world is changing and we’ve got a lot of environmental problems and coral reefs are particularly vulnerable. What we need to be able to do is to give the next generation the tools that they’re going to need to be able to cope with these changes.

“One of my main goals is to give future students, future researchers, the confidence to question and to think for themselves because we’re going to need to be innovative, imaginative and bold if we’re going to address the problems that we currently face,” Professor Bellwood said.

JCU College of Marine and Environmental Sciences

As part of the Division of Tropical Environments and Societies, the College of Marine and Environmental Sciences promotes, fosters, supports and administers quality teaching and research at JCU in the areas of marine biology, environment, geography and sustainability, aquaculture and fisheries, and terrestrial ecosystems.

Marine science is the interdisciplinary study of the marine environment bringing together elements of marine biology, oceanography, marine geoscience and environmental management. Marine scientists explore the make-up and dynamics of the world’s oceans and use their skills to investigate and manage human impacts on the marine environment; understand and utilise ocean resources; and manage and protect our marine reserves.

JCU’s location in the tropics allows students and research staff ready access to a wide variety of tropical marine systems including coral reefs, tropical estuaries, mangrove habitats and seagrass beds. Links between research and teaching programs ensure that students are at the cutting edge of marine research.


Are you interested in marine science? Contact OzTREKK Admissions Officer Shannon Tilston at shannon@oztrekk.com for more information about environmental sciences degrees available at James Cook University!

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

JCU team rate cyclone protection barrier

James Cook University researchers have discovered just how much protection locally available plywood provides against cyclone debris.

The low-cost timber is commonly secured to window frames by nailing or other fastening methods in order to protect glass in a storm.

JCU team rate cyclone protection barrier

Debris simulator at JCU’s Cyclone Testing Station (Photo credit: JCU)

Now JCU’s Nimesh Fernando and Ben Vincent, using the university’s wind-borne debris generator at its Cyclone Testing Station, have established exactly how much a plywood barrier can take.

The pair bought 17mm-thick standard plywood from a hardware chain and fired 4kg blocks of wood at it with increasing speeds.

“It will resist debris typically produced by a category two cyclone,” said Mr Fernando. “Based on experimentation, we wouldn’t recommend local plywood for anything above that.”

The pair found standard plywood was pierced by the wood block projectile at any speed over 14 metres per second—around 50 kmh.

“Based on Australian Standards, it would take a wind speed of 120 or 130 kmh, which is typical for a category two storm, to pick up such an object and project it at 50kmh,” said Mr Fernando.

He said heavier plywood would provide more protection. “We didn’t specifically model or test it, but we anticipate that a higher grade marine plywood should protect from debris produced by a low category three storm.”

The James Cook University researchers used 17mm thick plywood with a strength rating of F11 in their experiments. Buyers can see the standard ‘f-grade’ rating marked on the wood sold in hardware stores. “The greater the F-number, the better,” said Mr Fernando.

He said the most important outcome of the experiment was progress in corroborating the physical results with a computer model which could be used to evaluate other plywood and projectiles.

“We validated the simulations with newly acquired physical test data. There are some improvements to be made, but we have created the platform for future impact testing of debris shields.

“To simulate realistic damage characteristics of plywood was a great achievement.

“The benefit of the numerical method developed as part of this project is its capacity to test different species, thickness and sizes of plywood for any projectile by modelling, rather than having to repeat the expensive and time consuming physical testing.”

Mr Fernando said almost any protection was better than none. “Even in the cases where the projectile passed through the plywood it had lost 80 percent of its velocity by the time it reached the other side.”


Contact OzTREKK Admissions Officer Shannon Tilston for more information about science degrees available at James Cook University! Email Shannon at shannon@oztrekk.com or call toll free in Canada at 1-866-698-7355.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

JCU researchers study diet to combat schizophrenia

Research by James Cook University scientists has found a diet favoured by body-builders may be effective in treating schizophrenia.

Associate Professor Zoltan Sarnyai and his research group from JCU’s Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) have discovered that feeding mice a ketogenic diet, which is high on fat but very low on carbohydrates (sugars), leads to fewer animal behaviours that resemble schizophrenia.

James Cook University Medical School

Chart of some effects of the ketogenic diet on mice (Image credit: JCU)

The ketogenic diet has been used since the 1920s to manage epilepsy in children and more recently as a weight loss diet preferred by some body builders.

Dr Sarnyai believes the diet may work by providing alternative energy sources in the form of so-called ketone bodies (products of fat breakdown) and by helping to circumvent abnormally functioning cellular energy pathways in the brains of schizophrenics.

“Most of a person’s energy would come from fat. So the diet would consist of butter, cheese, salmon, etc. Initially it would be used in addition to medication in an in-patient setting where the patient’s diet could be controlled,” he said.

Schizophrenia is a devastating, chronic mental illness that affects nearly one per cent of people worldwide. There is no cure and medications used to alleviate it can produce side effects such as movement disorder, weight gain and cardiovascular disease.

But if the research findings can be translated into the effective management of schizophrenia they may offer a secondary benefit, too.

The group’s paper, published online in the leading journal Schizophrenia Research, also shows mice on a ketogenic diet weigh less and have lower blood glucose levels than mice fed a normal diet.

“It’s another advantage that it works against the weight gain, cardiovascular issues and type-two diabetes we see as common side-effects of drugs given to control schizophrenia,” said Dr Sarnyai.

The JCU researchers will now test their findings in other animal schizophrenia models as they explore a possible clinical trial.


Contact OzTREKK Admissions Officer Shannon Tilston for more information about science degrees and research degrees available at James Cook University. Email  Shannon at shannon@oztrekk.com or call toll free at 1-866-698-7355.

Friday, December 11th, 2015

James Cook University’s world-class research report card

James Cook University has strengthened its research credentials, more than doubling the number of research fields that receive the highest possible rating for research excellence.

A definitive report card of Australian university research quality has been published, rating JCU “world class or better” in 35 areas of research.

JCU Environmental Sciences

Find out more about environmental sciences at JCU

The Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) evaluates the quality of research in each field at every Australian university.

Universities are rated on a scale of one to five for each research field, with a rating of three representing “at world standard,” a rating of four is considered “above world standard,” and a rating of five represents “well above world standard.”

Of the 35 fields of research in which James Cook University is rated world class or above, the university received the highest possible rating (“well above standard”) in eight research areas—more than double the number it received when the ERA assessment was last published in 2012 (three in 2012 and eight in 2015).

JCU received the highest possible rating (“well above world standard”) in the following research fields:

  • Environmental sciences and management
  • Ecology
  • Geology
  • Physical geography and environmental geoscience
  • Ecological applications
  • Plant biology
  • Medical microbiology
  • Neurosciences

The university was found to be “above world standard” in another 11 areas including public health, fisheries science, materials engineering, and archaeology. JCU was rated “at world standard” in another 16 areas of research.

JCU Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Chris Cocklin said the results confirm James Cook University’s research excellence, particularly in the fields of environmental science and management, ecology, geology, and public health.

“JCU’s goal is to create a brighter future for life in the tropics worldwide through graduates and discoveries that make a difference, and these results clearly show we are delivering world-class research that improving the lives of those who reside in the tropics.”

ERA is a comprehensive quality evaluation of all research produced in Australian universities against national and international benchmarks. The ratings are determined and moderated by committees of distinguished researchers, drawn from Australia and overseas.


Would you like to learn more about studying environmental sciences or public health programs at James Cook University? Contact OzTREKK Admissions Officer Rachel Brady at rachel@oztrekk.com or call toll free at 1-866-698-7355.

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

New grant expands JCU hookworm treatment

A James Cook University scientist and a medical doctor will study a revolutionary treatment for a debilitating illness that affects hundreds of thousands of Australians.

JCU science degrees

Close-up of a hookworm (Image credit: JCU)

Dr John Croese, an adjunct professor at JCU and a gastroentologist at The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane, and Dr Paul Giacomin, a scientist at JCU’s Cairns Campus, have been awarded more than $860,000 by the National Health and Medical Research Council to study the treatment of coeliac disease using hookworms.

Coeliac disease makes the immune system react abnormally to gluten and results in damage to the small bowel. It affects one out of every 70 Australians.

“Symptoms of coeliac disease vary, with the most common being gastrointestinal upsets. Others symptoms, some more severe, may include fatigue, anaemia, unexplained weight loss or gain, bone or joint pains and swelling of the mouth or tongue,” Dr Croese said.

Forty patients will be injected with hookworm larvae as a follow-up to a pilot study that suggested the parasite is effective in treating coeliac disease.

A smaller number of participants in the earlier trial were infected with 20 Necator americanus (hookworm) larvae. They were then given gradually increasing doses of gluten, beginning with just one-tenth of a gram per day (the equivalent of a two-centimetre segment of spaghetti) and increasing in two further stages to a final daily dose of three grams (75 spaghetti straws).

By the end of the trial, the patients were eating the equivalent of a medium-sized bowl of spaghetti—a meal that would usually bring on diarrhoea, cramps and vomiting.

“The gut becomes more accepting of different foods,” said Dr Croese. “It’s the most exciting development I am aware of in the treatment of coeliac disease.”

Participants in the new trial will have their gluten levels elevated far above those in the pilot study as they progress towards eating a normal diet.

Hookworms do not breed within the human body so there is no chance of the parasite multiplying to dangerous numbers.

Scientists believe the key to the hookworms’ anti-inflammatory prowess lies within the proteins that the worms secrete. Work will continue on isolating the protein, but in the interim it is thought a treatment for coeliacs will involve infecting sufferers with the whole hookworm.


Contact OzTREKK Admissions Officer Rachel Brady for more information about science degrees available at James Cook University! Email Rachel at rachel@oztrekk.com or call toll free in Canada at 1-866-698-7355.