Faculty of Health

Respiratory and Clinical Microbiology Group


To better understand how bacterial pathogens transmit and cause disease through an examination of their genomic composition

The main focus of the Respiratory & Clinical Microbiology Group are the molecular bases of respiratory infectious disease, and the genomics of microbes of clinical importance.

Specific projects include our investigations of the relationship between Mycobacterium tuberculosis phylogeny and disease. This project examines the genetic lineages of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex present in the population and their origin. It relates pathogen genomic information to TB transmission, disease manifestations and treatment outcomes, including drug resistance, as well as to patient data variables.

We are also using genomics to characterise the role of lower respiratory tract bacterial infection in the acute exacerbation (AE) of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This research underpins our group’s work on the capacity for receptor antagonists to selectively block different strains of the main bacterial drivers of AECOPD in smokers, H. influenzae and S. pneumoniae.

Additional research includes our work on the transmission of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) such as Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci (VRE) in an acute hospital setting. We are performing whole-genome sequencing on these HAI isolates to determine their likely origin, their pattern of spread in the hospital, and their relatedness to cases and outbreaks in other states and jurisdictions.

Specialist Fields and Areas of Investigation

  • Medical Microbiology & Respiratory Infection
  • Bacterial Phylogenomics & Molecular Epidemiology
  • Anti-Infective Drug Discovery & Development
  • Tuberculosis & Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Major achievements or grants

  • 2016-present. Research Grant, Tasmanian University Foundation. Co-investigator. Award: AUD $100,000.
  • 2016-present. Research Grant, Boehringer Ingelheim Australia. Co-investigator. Award: AUD $50,000.
  • 2016-present. Research Development Grant. Principal Investigator. Award: AUD $10,000.
  • 2013-2014. Science Foundation Ireland, International Strategic Cooperation Award. Co-investigator. Award: EU €150,000.
  • 2011-2012. University Research Fund, Victoria University of Wellington, Research Grant. Principal Investigator. Award: NZD $49,950.
  • 2009-2012. Wellington Medical Research Foundation, Research Grant. Principal Investigator. Award: NZD $36,000.
  • 2007-2011. Health Research Council of New Zealand, Emerging Researcher Grant. Principal Investigator. Award: NZD $129,500.

How does your group transform healthcare and ageing in Tasmania and around the globe?

Our research contributes to the global effort to reduce human morbidity and mortality due to respiratory disease. Tuberculosis (TB) is the leading cause of death due to respiratory infection worldwide while chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is emerging as the third largest cause of human mortality worldwide after heart disease and stroke.

Our work is focussed on providing a greater understanding of the bacterial pathogens which drive the development or worsening of these key lung diseases, and the translation of the new knowledge generated into more effective preventative or therapeutic tools.

Key Information


Name: Respiratory and Clinical Microbiology Group

Established: 2014

Research group head:

Other staff members:
  • Sanjay Gautam
  • Kelvin Leong
  • Rajendra KC
Contact details:

Location/Address:

Medical Science 1 Building, School of Medicine, University of Tasmania, 17 Liverpool Street, Hobart 7000, Australia

Telephone: +61 3 6226 6974

Email: ronan.otoole@utas.edu.au

Research theme areas: