Ticks (Acari: Ixodida) transmit the greatest variety of pathogenic microorganisms of medical and veterinary importance. During the past decade, a third of world-wide pandemics have been associated with bacterial and protozoal emerging infectious diseases and over a quarter have been attributed to vector-borne diseases.

Australia is home to 74 native and introduced tick species. While most have native wildlife hosts, only a few tick species are known to bite humans and to vector pathogens associated with human tick-borne diseases. However, the concern regarding the potential for zoonotic tick-borne illness in Australia has increased. The question of a novel tick-borne zoonotic disease acquired from Australian ticks is of critical scientific and political importance, and it is a conundrum that requires urgent research to provide evidence-based scientific data.

This presentation will discuss the methodology used to characterise the bacterial communities found within Australian ticks and the search for novel candidate pathogens, as well as bacterial genera of known tick borne pathogens and endosymbionts. Bacterial endosymbionts are not known to be infectious to vertebrate hosts, however this principle has been challenged recently and the distinction between arthropod endosymbionts and vertebrate pathogens has become blurred. Our recent findings show that without the use of molecular advances, such as next-generation sequencing, many bacteria of potential medical and veterinary interest could go undetected.


Dr. Oskam is a mid-career researcher and senior lecturer at Murdoch University, (2013 to present) accepting a tenured position in 2016. Charlotte received an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science (2004) and Masters in Science (2008) from the University of Otago, New Zealand and in 2013, graduated with a PhD in Biological Sciences and Biotechnology from Murdoch (Ancient DNA and stable isotope profiling in fossil eggshells. She has published 59 journal articles and 3 book chapters and have been funded by 18 research grants worth ~$2.8 million (lead CI on 9), focusing on tick and water- borne pathogens, and four Pawsey Supercomputing Centre merit allocations for high throughput data analysis. Together with Professors Peter Irwin and Una Ryan, Dr. Oskam has made significant contributions through translational research to tick-associated studies, and her team has expertise in study design and patient recruitment, metagenomics (including eDNA), phylogenetics and population genetics, and bioinformatics. Charlotte was recently awarded a Young Tall Poppy Award for excellence in research and science communication.

About School research seminars

Seminars cover all aspects of chemistry and molecular biosciences and are delivered by visiting national and international academics. PhD completion seminars are also incorporated into the program.

Seminars are usually held in person and via zoom. All are welcome to attend.