Letting the big one get away
False assumptions about sustainable fish catches based on 60-year-old research are a threat to the sustainability of global fisheries. After two years recording the relationship between fish size and reproductive output, the Monash Centre for Geometric Biology has concluded that one large fish produces many more eggs than several smaller fish collectively weighing the same amount. In practice, this means setting size limits in fisheries doesn’t go far enough, and bigger female fish need to be protected. On the positive side, however, the benefits of marine protected areas have been “wildly underestimated”, Professor Dustin Marshall says.
A global buzz over mosquitoes
The deadly mosquito-borne viruses dengue, chikungunya and Zika infect hundreds of millions of people each year, but a radical, ‘counterintuitive’ approach is giving hope they can be contained and even eradicated. The pioneering method of Professor Scott O’Neill, director of the Institute of Vector-Borne Disease at Monash University, involves infecting mosquitoes with Wolbachia, a bacterium that prevents them transmitting the viruses.
The method has produced generations of mosquitoes that carry Wolbachia in trial areas in north Queensland. Now rolling out in 12 sites around the world, the not-for-profit World Mosquito Program, headquartered at Monash, is close to reaching two million people globally.
Mood-based app to fight depression
Two free smartphone apps developed by Monash University psychologists to help combat growing rates of anxiety and depression are helping plug the gap in mental health services. The ‘Mood’ apps – MoodPrism, which was re-released in June with added extras, and the award-winning MoodMission, which has been downloaded 50,000 times – are targeting the estimated one million people in Australia with depression and two million with anxiety. The Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences believes capitalising on technology is particularly helpful for young people who might not get one-on-one support.
Read more: 'Mood' apps to combat depression
HIV prescription for prevention
For the first time, a preventative treatment for HIV is available. An antiretroviral pill known as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) reduces a person’s chance of HIV infection by up to 99 percent. PrEP guidelines co-authored by Associate Professor Edwina Wright and studies conducted by her team at The Alfred hospital helped pave the way for the Federal Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee’s decision to list it on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
From 1 April, it has been available by prescription from any GP in Australia and subsidised by the government.
Read more: HIV: A prescription for prevention
AI for intelligence analysts
Artificial intelligence is at the forefront of a Monash University research project to develop a system to help analysts extract the most useful advice from a ‘crowd’. Funded by up to US$14 million from the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence from its Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, Monash is one of four universities developing techniques for a program called CREATE (Crowdsourcing Evidence Argumentation Thinking and Evaluation).
Researchers from the Monash Faculty of Information Technology will tackle the task by applying their causal Bayesian networks research, a mathematical model used to assess systems with many variables that relate to each other probabilistically.
Monash University medical sociologist Associate Professor Mark Davis is on a mission to understand public apathy toward antibiotic resistance and its potentially catastrophic global implications. Professor Davis has received a three-year Australian Research Council grant for his multidisciplinary research, which includes sociology, medical anthropology, health psychology, media and journalism.
The lowdown on back pain
Lower-back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, but its treatment is still subject to widespread misconceptions. An international group of experts led by Monash University’s Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, writing in the medical journal The Lancet, has called for sufferers to stay active and exercise.
Professor Buchbinder is the leader of the Centre of Research Excellence for the Australia and New Zealand Musculoskeletal Clinical Trials Network, a collaboration of more than 200 clinician–researchers from Australia and New Zealand, which was established at Malvern’s Cabrini Institute in March, to improve outcomes for people with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions.
Read more: Back pain: we're treating it all wrong
Behind the mask
When the Australian Department of Defence realised the technology behind gas masks hadn’t changed since World War I and offered virtually no protection from common chemicals, it commissioned Monash University’s Department of Chemical Engineering and CSIRO to attack the problem.
The innovative collaboration is developing a new gas mask canister using metal–organic frameworks – highly porous materials that can store and separate gases or liquids. When the masks are released onto the market they will protect not only soldiers, but also firefighters, miners and construction workers.
FODMAP’s happy returns
The Monash University FODMAP app has celebrated its fifth birthday and continues to be one of Australia’s top-10 paid medical apps, thanks to the one in seven people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Monash University’s Department of Gastroenterology is cementing its place as the undisputed FODMAP research authority with a new website (monashfodmap.com), and a new logo and trademark. The app is being translated into other languages, with French and Spanish versions in the works.
The modern face of slavery
Leading international legal academic Professor Jean Allain, who provided testimony to the High Court of Australia in the first criminal conviction for a slavery offence in Australia, has joined Monash as Professor and Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Law.
A global anti-slavery expert, Professor Allain says working at Monash allows him proximity to the Asia–Pacific region, which has the highest concentration of slaves in the world.
The Australian Government is seeking to introduce anti-slavery legislation later this year, for which Professor Allain has made written and verbal submissions.
Read more: The hidden face of modern slavery
Watch: Exposing modern slavery