Protein ‘fingerprints’ point to gut parasite strains

A common gut parasite that gives kids gastro could soon be easier to identify, thanks to a new test in the making by Perth scientists.
​Lisa Morrison
​Lisa Morrison
Freelance reporter
Protein ‘fingerprints’ point to gut parasite strains
Image credit: Murdoch University

Giardia is the most common intestinal parasite found in domestic dogs.

Some strains can infect people and cause a stomach infection called giardiasis.

Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea, fatigue, bloating and appetite loss.

They can last for months.

The parasite prevents normal nutrient absorption, and long-term infection can cause malnutrition.

People catch Giardia through contact with infected cysts in dog poo or on the animal’s coat.

There are more than 700 cases each year, according to the WA Country Health Service.

Murdoch University Emeritus Parasitology Professor Andrew Thompson says it’s more widespread.

“There are a lot more cases that are not notified,” he says.

“Most experts would say that at any one time about 5% of the population would have Giardia.

“More than half of all cases involve infants and children under the age of five.”

Andy says children from remote Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley have higher infection rates than other areas of WA.

The prevalence is thought to be due to infected dogs, poor living conditions and low hygiene levels.


Identifying Giardia is tricky because the strains look the same under the microscope.

Vets can help prevent the spread between pooches and people if they could tell the strains apart.

Murdoch Uni and Perth life sciences company Proteomics International Laboratories Ltd (PILL) have joined forces to attempt this.

Researchers are mapping Giardia samples using a method called Promarker.

Andy says Murdoch Uni has one of the world’s largest collections of Giardia samples.

The samples were cryopreserved or frozen.

Promarker involves matching sequences of DNA and proteins to discover biomarkers or protein ‘fingerprints’.

Promarker helped develop a test for diabetic kidney disease, PILL managing director Dr Richard Lipscombe says.

The test is being commercialised in Central America and China.

PILL are also using Promarker to investigate biomarkers associated with endometriosis and mesothelioma.

View Larger

At this stage the Giardia parasite multiplies in the small intestine and sticks to the gut wall

Image credit: Peta Clode, UWA
View Larger

A single cyst of Giardia. This is the resistant stage passed in the faeces of infected hosts

Image credit: Murdoch University


Murdoch University and PILL have done a proof-of-concept (or feasibility) study for a commercial test for Giardia with a US veterinary company.

Andrew says it’s a significant step closer to a simple test any pathology lab could perform.

“There’s a real commercial market out there for such a test,” he says.

The project has been extended and received a $45,000 grant from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science for two new researchers.

Andrew hopes they could deliver results within 12 months.

​Lisa Morrison
About the author
​Lisa Morrison
Lisa is a freelance journalist based in Albany, WA. She has four years' experience as a news reporter for newspapers in Esperance and Albany, and three years' experience as a science writer for websites. She enjoys tracking down and telling interesting stories.
View articles
Lisa is a freelance journalist based in Albany, WA. She has four years' experience as a news reporter for newspapers in Esperance and Albany, and three years' experience as a science writer for websites. She enjoys tracking down and telling interesting stories.
View articles


We've got chemistry, let's take it to the next level!

Get the latest WA science news delivered to your inbox, every fortnight.


Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.


You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.


Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.


All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.


For more information about using our content, email us:

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy