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Immune function monitoring to determine timing of vaccination and antimicrobial prophylaxis in immunosuppressed patients

Patients on immunosuppressive therapy (such as bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy recipients) are at increased risk of a number of infections. However, there remains a knowledge gap as to the nature and duration of this immunosuppression. This, in turn, means that we cannot precisely determine the level of risk of opportunistic infections over time. As a consequence, the current schedule for vaccinations do not match up with the timing of when a patient’s immune function recovers post bone marrow transplant or chemotherapy. For example, if we give a vaccine too early then the patient won’t be able to mount an immune response and so remains at ongoing risk of infection. In addition, not knowing the timing and duration of the immune recovery post-transplant or chemotherapy means that we currently cannot determine with any accuracy when antimicrobial prophylaxis should cease. Antimicrobial prophylaxis can cause side-effects and is associated with emerging antimicrobial resistance. We have data that indicate that the timing of immune recovery post bone marrow transplant can be precisely determined (1). We have a large collection of longitudinally collected samples to test and so can confirm our findings in a larger study. With this research study, our aim is to analyse the immunoproliferative responses of B and T cells to specific pathogen derived antigens (including vaccine antigens). We will also measure secreted cytokines and immunoglobulins. The student will conduct flow-cytometry and immunofluorescence-based assays to find the timing of optimum immune recovery of patients against pathogens and ascertain the proportionality of vaccine responsiveness compared to healthy controls. The student will learn flow cytometry and ELISA techniques, clinical research, and data analysis skills and will also learn to write reports and manuscripts. The student will have access to departmental infrastructure and support from other researchers in the department. Ref: (1) de Silva HD, Ffrench RA, Korem M, Orlowski E, Curtis DJ, Spencer A, Avery S, Patil S, Morrissey CO. Contemporary analysis of functional immune recovery to opportunistic and vaccine-preventable infections after allogeneic haemopoietic stem cell transplantation. Clin Transl Immunology. 2018 Oct 5;7(10):e1040. doi: 10.1002/cti2.1040. PMID: 30323928; PMCID: PMC6173278.
Essential criteria: 
Minimum entry requirements can be found here:
Vaccines, immunocompromise, immune recovery, immune response, bone marrow transplants, infection-risk, chemotherapy
Available options 
Masters by research
Time commitment 
Top-up scholarship funding available 
Physical location 
Burnet Institute with Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

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