Health in the tropics

Australia in general and Queensland in particular are at risk of dengue fever, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, cholera, rabies, avian influenza (H5N1), bat-borne viruses and newly emerging pathogens.  These pose health security threats to the nation and the State, particularly through the Indo-Papuan biogeographic corridor in Torres Strait.  The communities of regional, remote and indigenous tropical Australia are especially at risk, and also suffer from endemic diseases such as melioidosis, Q fever, drug-resistant Staphyloccoccus aureus, group A Streptococcus and pneumonia.  Moreover, in rural and remote communities, these risks are superimposed on an incidence of lifestyle-related disorders such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases and some cancers that is well above Australian norms.  Thus, Queensland’s tropical location ensures it is subject to endemic and epidemic tropical and emerging diseases, and is close to major global foci of the same. 

The nations of South East Asia and the Western Pacific themselves seek solutions to long-standing tropical health issues.  The need for tropical health research will increase in the future due to a range of factors, including:

  • Increased demographic and economic growth in disease-endemic countries;
  • Increased exposure to mosquitoes and other disease vectors;
  • Re-emergence of drug resistant major communicable tropical diseases; 
  • Natural disasters or poorly planned infrastructure leading to uncontrolled outbreaks of tropical diseases;
  • Lack of a comprehensive surveillance system available to all;
  • Climate change leading to increased potential for tropical disease transmission;
  • Increased risk of newly emerging diseases;
  • Increased risk of disease spread across borders due to travel and globalization.


Queensland is in a strong position to contribute to the search for tropical health solutions:

  1. a tropical location, itself subject to endemic and epidemic tropical and emerging diseases, and close to major global foci of the same;
  2. a strong base of excellence and internationally competitive capacity in both basic and applied research, and in program implementation;
  3. translational capacity to add value;
  4. capacity to market outputs.


QTHA brings together world-class researchers at James Cook University, the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Griffith University and the Queensland University of Technology into a cluster aimed at reducing the burden of tropical diseases to Queensland and surrounding regions.  QTHA is improving the research base underpinning tropical disease surveillance, appropriate interventions and program support.  QTHA is also undertaking diagnostics, drug and vaccine research and development, from target identification through to clinical trials.

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