Skin Health

Department / Centre
The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

Project Details

Skin infections are a major contributor to the disparity of health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Skin sores, often caused by Group A Streptococcus and driven by scabies, are associated with invasive infections and can have serious consequences leading to chronic renal and cardiac diseases and early mortality. The design of effective, sustainable interventions for skin sores requires a quantitative understanding of how factors such as other skin infections (scabies, tinea), household crowding, treatment uptake and mobility contribute to the high prevalence of skin sores observed in Indigenous communities. We use mathematical and statistical models to provide robust estimates of key epidemiologic quantities, analysing information such as clinic presentations, whole genome sequencing, antibody responses and human mobility. Working in partnership with Indigenous communities, we use these estimates to define the scale and types of intervention needed to make a substantive and sustainable impact on the prevalence of skin sores, and thus reduce the associated acute and chronic disease burden due to Group A Streptococcus infections.


  • Dr James Fielding, Epidemiologist
  • Dr Patricia Campbell, Research Fellow
  • Kylie Carville, Epidemiologist
  • Dr Karen McCulloch, Research Fellow
  • Dr Katherine Gibney, Research Fellow
  • Dr David Price, Research Fellow
  • Priyanka Pillai, Health Informatics Specialist
  • Adrian Marcato, Data Management


On this project, we collaborate with the Menzies School of Health Research, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Telethon Kids Institute and the Kirby Institute. Partners include Indigenous-led community-based organisations (local councils and community health clinics), Northern Territory (NT) Centres for Disease Control (CDC), NT Remote Health, the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT), independent providers (One Disease and Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation).


NHMRC Project: Tong S, McVernon J, Andrews R, Geard N, Dhurrkay R, Carapetis J, Currie B, Steer A, Giffard P, Bowen A. Optimising intervention strategies to reduce the burden of Group A Streptococcus in Indigenous Communities. Funding: $856,896, 2016-2019.

Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Seed Funding: Moore H, Bowen A, Walker R, Campbell T, McVernon J, Tong S, Fathima P, Wu Y. Identifying the determinants of hospitalisations due to skin infection in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in WA. Funding: $27,474, 2018.

University of Melbourne Early Career Researcher Grant: Campbell P, Wu Y, Steer A, Tong S. What is the likely impact of Group A Streptococcus vaccines? Funding $34,397, 2017.

University of Melbourne Indigenous Research Initiative Seed Funding Grant Scheme: Gibney K, McVernon J, Tong S, Dhurrkay RG, Dockery AM, Taylor A, Geard N, Campbell P, Bird S, Wadley G, Tomko M, Singh G, Warr DJ. Quantifying connectedness and mobility in remote Indigenous communities. Funding: $50,000, 2016-17.

Murdoch Childrens Research Institute Infection, Immunity & Environment Theme Grants: McVernon J, Steer A, Smeesters P, Geard N, Campbell P, McCaw J, Lydeamore M, Tong S, Bowen A. Understanding household and community level transmission of Group A streptococcus. Funding: $25,000, 2015.

Research Outcomes

In addition to publications in peer-reviewed journals, our findings have been disseminated through conferences and meetings, including the Lancefield Streptococcal symposium, HOT NORTH consortium meetings, the Australian Society for Infectious Diseases meeting and PRISM2 conferences.

Research Publications

Cuningham W, McVernon J, Lydeamore MJ, Andrews RM, Carapetis J,

Kearns T, Clucas D, Dhurrkay RG, Tong SYC, Campbell PT. (2019). High burden of infectious disease and antibiotic use in early life in Australian Aboriginal communities. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health; 43: 149–155

Lydeamore MJ, Campbell PT, Regan DG, Tong SYC, Andrews RM, Steer AC,

Romani L, Kaldor JM, McVernon J, McCaw JM. (2019). A biological model of scabies infection dynamics and treatment informs mass drug administration strategies and likelihood of elimination. Mathematical Biosciences; 309: 163–173.

Campbell PT, Frost H, Smeesters PR, Kado J, Good MF, Batzloff M, Geard N, McVernon J, Steer A. (2018). Investigation of group A Streptococcus immune responses in an endemic setting, with a particular focus on J8. Vaccine; 36(50): 7618–7624.

Aung PTZ, Cuningham W, Hwang K, Andrews RM, Carapetis J, Kearns T, Clucas D, McVernon J, Simpson JA, Tong, SYC, Campbell PT. (2018). Scabies and risk of skin sores in remote Australian Aboriginal communities: A self-controlled case series study. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases; 12(7): e0006668.

Lydeamore MJ, Campbell PT, Cuningham W, Andrews RM, Kearns T, Clucas D, Dhurrkay RG, Carapetis J, Tong SYC, McCaw JM, McVernon J. (2018). Calculation of the age of the first infection for skin sores and scabies in five remote communities in northern Australia. Epidemiology and Infection; 146: 1194–1201.

Chisholm RH, Campbell PT, Wu Y, Tong SYC, Mcvernon J, Geard N. (2018). Implications of asymptomatic carriers for infectious disease transmission and control. Royal Society Open Science; 5, 172341.

Vino T, Singh GR, Davison B, Campbell PT, Lydeamore MJ, Robinson A, McVernon J, Tong SYC, Geard N. (2017). Indigenous Australian household structure: a simple data collection tool and implications for close contact transmission of communicable diseases. PeerJ; 5, e3958.

Bowen AC, Harris T, Holt DC, Giffard PM, Carapetis J, Campbell PT, McVernon J, Tong SYC. (2016). Whole genome sequencing reveals extensive community-level transmission of Group A Streptococcus in remote communities. Epidemiology & Infection; 144(9), 1991–1998.

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

Department / Centre

The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

Research Group / Unit / Centre

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