The Respiratory Research Unit is focused on research into pulmonary nontuberculous mycobacterial infections and bronchiectasis. Both conditions are closed related and are increasing in prevalence in Queensland.

Nontuberculous mycobacteria are environmental pathogens and are a cause of chronic lung disease. These can infect patients with pre-existing bronchiectasis and can cause progressive bronchiectasis in otherwise apparently healthy people.

Current projects

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Innate Immunity

In conjunction with the Thoracic Research group at Prince Charles Hospital and collaborators at the University of WA in separate projects, we are investigating why apparently healthy people develop lung disease due to NTM. As the organisms are in the environment and we are all exposed to them – what...


With the School of Population Health we are currently investigating the distribution of NTM disease throughout QLD and relationships with environmental factors such as rainfall, temperature, and relative humidity.

Strain typing of M. kansasii

Carla Tolson (Masters Project, QUT) is comparing various strain typing techniques for M. kansasii and comparing the strains identified over the last 10 years. Environmental and human strains will be compared.

Whole genome sequencing of M. abscessus isolates

in collaboration with the University of Cambridge.

Outcomes of M. abscessus infections in QLD

Dr Michael Holt, Dr Andrew Burke, Dr Rachel Thomson

The significance of M. abscessus in Cystic Fibrosis

Dr Amy Reynolds, Assoc Prof Scott Bell (TPCH), Dr Rachel Thomson.

Experience with Clofazimine in treatment of NTM infections

Dr Michael Trotter, Dr Andrew Burke, Dr Rachel Thomson in conjunction with the NTM-net.

Experience with Amikacin in treatment of NTM infections in QLD

Dr Claire Ellender (PAH), Dr Geoff Eather (PAH), Dr Rachel Thomson

Our team


Rachel Thomson, Carla Tolson, Robyn Carter, Flavia Huygens, and Megan Hargreaves. Factors associated with the isolation of Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) from a large municipal water system in Brisbane, Australia. BMC Microbiology 2013, 13; 89

Rachel Thomson, Carla Tolson, Flavia Huygens, Megan Hargreaves Mycobacterium abscessus in potable water – a potential source of human infection. BMC Infectious Diseases 2013; 13; 241

W. Hoefsloot, J. van Ingen*, C. Andrejak, K. Ängeby, R. Bauriaud, P. Bemer, M.J. Boeree, J. Cacho , E. Chimara, R. Cias, R. Dasa, P.N.R. Dekhuijzen, D. Domingo, F. Drobniewski, J. Esteban, M. Fauville-Dufaux, D.B. Folkvardsen, N. Gibbons, E. Gómez-Mampaso , R. Gonzalez , H. Hoffmann, P.R. Hsueh, A. Indra, T. Jagielski, F. Jamieson, M. Jankovic, J. Keane, W.J. Koh, S. Leao, R. Macedo, T. Mannsåker, T. Marras, J. Maugein, H. Milburn, T. Mlinkó, N. Morcillo, K. Morimoto, D. Papaventis, E. Palenque, M. Paez-Peña, C. Piersimoni, M. Polanová, N. Rastogi, E. Richter, M.J. Ruiz-Serrano, A. Silva, H. Simsek, D. van Soolingen, N. Szabó, R. Thomson, M.T. Tórtola Fernandez, E. Tortoli, S.E. Totten, G. Tyrrell, T. Vasankari, M. Villar, R. Walkiewicz, K. Winthrop, D. Wagner for NTM-NET. A snapshot of the geographic diversity of nontuberculous mycobacteria isolated from pulmonary samples: An NTM-net collaborative study. European Respiratory Journal April 18,2013 (epub ahead of print)

Henry Marshall, Robyn Carter, Matthew Torbey, Sharri Minion, Carla Tolson, Flavia Huygens, Megan Hargreaves, Rachel Thomson. Mycobacterium lentiflavum in drinking water supplies, Australia. Emerging Infectious Diseases 2011; 17(3):395-402

Rachel Thomson. The changing epidemiology of Pulmonary Nontuberculous mycobacterial infections. Emerging Infectious Diseases 2010; 16:1576-83

Miriam Grech, Robyn Carter, Rachel Thomson. Clinical significance of Mycobacterium asiaticum isolates in Queensland, Australia. J Clin Micro 2010;48:162-167

Rachel Thomson, W.-W. Yew. When and how to treat pulmonary non-tuberculous mycobacterial diseases. Respirology 2009; 14(1):12-26. (Top 10 article for 2009)

Rachel Thomson, Robyn Carter, Chris Gilpin, Chris Coulter, and Megan Hargreaves. A Comparison of Methods for Processing Drinking Water Samples for the Isolation of Mycobacterium avium and intracellulare. Appl. Environ. Microbiol.2008:74;3094-3098

Rachel M Thomson, John G Armstrong, David F Looke. Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), acid suppression and Mycobacterium Avium Complex (MAC) Pulmonary Disease. Chest 2007;131;1166-1172 IF 4.008


The GMRF Respiratory Research Unit has established collaborations with a number of universities and institutes, both locally and abroad.


  • University of Queensland, School of Population Health
    Archie Clements, Associate Professor in Infectious Diseases
  • University of Western Australia
    Professor Patricia Price
    Associate Professor Grant Waterer
  • University of Cambridge, UK
    Dr Andres Floto
    Principal Investigator & Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow
    Cambridge Institute for Medical Research
  • Princess Alexandra Hospital Respiratory Department
    Dr Geoff Eather
    Dr Claire Ellender
  • University of Queensland, School of Population HealthArchie Clements, Associate Professor in Infectious Diseases