The Road Less Travelled





Mozzie Mash and Mud Pies is the theme of the Lab Without Walls road show in August. The team will be taking their lab-in-a-box on the road and travelling from one end of the Kimberley to the other during National Science Week.

Open events are scheduled for Broome, Derby and Kununurra and a series of public science activities have been prepared for these towns and other places along the route, which will follow the Gibb River Road.

Google Maps: the route planned by LWW for their road show

The pathology methods the team are bringing with them have had limited exposure in regional Western Australia. This will be the first opportunity for most people to see molecular biology on their own doorstep. If molecular stuff isn’t your cup of tea,  you may still want to find out about the infections mosquitoes spread in regional WA. Murray Valley encephalitis and Ross River virus infection are a problem wherever the right mix of mosquitoes and animal reservoirs occur.

The road show will give interested viewers an opportunity for revenge. Help prepare the potent brew of dead mosquitoes and reagents to detection of traces of their viruses. The team will show how the power of the polymerase chain reaction can be used to find these viruses in remote parts of the state using an easily portable field lab. The same lab they used recently in Sri Lanka. Viewers will be able to get up close and personal with preserved mosquitoes and learn about the differences that make some types more suited to transmitting viral infections in different locations.

So what about the mud pies? Regular visitors to this blog will know our fascination with the soil and water borne infection known as melioidosis. It’s present in the Kimberley and causes more cases every year, particularly during the Wet. So it may come as a bit of a surprise to know that the bacteria that cause melioidosis survive underground during the dry season. The LWW team will be collecting soil samples at each of their stops and various locations in between. A bit like the mozzie mash process, our soils will be transformed into mud, incubated and tested for the bacterial cause of melioidosis. This is a monitoring activity that may be needed increasingly in years to come if the severe weather effects of climate change and the increase in agricultural land use in the region promote and increase in these potentially dangerous bacteria. It’s a case of forewarned is forearmed.

The LWW team know that this is much more than a travelling show-and-tell circus. They will be doing some very serious science along the way, aiming to work out how to improve mosquito-borne disease surveillance methods. An obvious side effect of this work is to demonstrate the feasibility of running PCR assays in regional centres in the tropical north. While no clinical diagnostic work will be performed during this project, the project will highlight the potential for enhancement of regional pathology services by the operation of PCR methods.

Mozzie Mash and Mudpies can be seen between 1200 and 1400h in Broome on 10th August, Derby on 13th August and Kununurra on 17th August. Demonstrations will be conducted in open air locations in the hospital grounds, and a series of complementary public science activities will flow on from these. The team’s activities on the Gibb River Road will be filmed (details to be posted later). A multimedia presentation will be prepared along the route for educational use after National Science Week is over.

Mozzie Mash & Mud Pies in:

  • Broome, 1200-1400h, 10-AUG-12
  • Derby, 1200-1400, 13-AUG-12
  • Kununurra, 1200-1400, 17-AUG-12




  1. Go Gnome!

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