Topic status: We're looking for students to study this topic.

Malaria kills more than one million people each year. With no vaccine available, effective diagnosis and treatment of infections is fundamental to combating the disease, but drug resistance in the parasite is a major problem. Active surveillance and testing of drug susceptibility in the field is common for the two parasites which cause the majority of malaria in humans, Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax. The results from these tests help inform public health officials on the prevalence of resistance and, ultimately, determine when the first-line therapy should be changed.

The schizont maturation test (SMT) is the standard technique used for drug assays. This assay was developed for P. falciparum, and is now regularly applied to P. vivax. However there are significant differences in the biology of the two parasite species which impact on the interpretation of the SMT results. The data for P. vivax is confounded due to asynchrony in parasite life stages, a feature which can lead to the erroneous interpretation of results for drugs which have stage-specific activity.


The project will use frequentist and Bayesian statistical approaches to analyse data from SMTs applied to P. vivax parasites. The focus will be on developing techniques which can account for the effects of parasite asynchrony and the results will be used to develop guidelines on how to best analyse and interpret results of the P. vivax SMT. The student will then use the techniques developed to investigate whether there have been changes in drug susceptibility at the Indonesian field site over a 7 year period.

Skills required

This project is offered at an undergraduate (final year or Honours) or postgraduate (Honours or Masters) level. The student should have good statistical skills and a desire to apply these to real-world data. An interest in biology and public health is also highly desirable.


This project will be jointly supervised by Prof Kerrie Mengersen (QUT) and Dr Michelle Gatton (QIMR). The student will be enrolled at QUT but physically located at the Malaria Drug Resistance and Chemotherapy Laboratory, Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), at Herston. QIMR is one of Australia’s leading medical research institutes working on a wide variety of diseases and conditions. QIMR has an active student program providing exciting research opportunities to students with diverse educational backgrounds from a variety of universities and degree programs. QIMR offers limited scholarships to honours students of $5,000.

Study level
Masters, Honours
QUT External Dr Michelle Gatton
Organisational unit

Science and Engineering Faculty

Research areas
malaria, mathematics
Please contact the supervisor for enquiries.