Dr Kirsty Short - University of Queensland

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15 November 2018

Discovering the link between influenza and obesity

Brisbane based virologist, Kirsty Short is interested in how obesity effects the influenza virus and how the current obesity epidemic is resulting in a more vulnerable patient group, susceptible to the flu.

In 2017, Australia experienced its worst influenza season on record and with over 60 per cent of adults reported as obese and one in four children overweight or obese, this research is of critical importance in protecting the public health of many Australians.

Across communities, the severity of flu outbreaks is influenced by the host demographic including an individual’s underlying conditions. Kirsty believes that obesity leaves behind a legacy effect due to the fact that obesity alters white blood cell function, which plays a critical role within the immune system, such that these immune cells are no longer able to limit influenza virus replication.

As our population is changing, this research will help better understand if we are prepared for future pandemics.

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