Charlene Kahler

Professor, BSc PhD Qld

  • The University of Western Australia (M504), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


Dr Charlene Kahler completed a Bachelor of Science and PhD in microbiology at the University of Queensland. Her first post-doctoral position was at Emory University in Atlanta (USA) with Prof David Stephens where she developed her interest in meningococcal pathogenesis. She returned to Australia in 1999 as the Faculty of Medicine Fellow at Monash University to work with Prof John Davies on Neisseria gonorrhoeae. In 2005, she became a senior lecturer at The University of Western Australia. She is currently the Head of Discipline of Microbiology and Immunology and the Deputy Director of the Marshall Center at UWA.

Funding overview

National Health and Medical Research Council
Amanda Young Foundation
Western Australia Department of Health

Current projects

Neisseria meningitidis 

Neisseria meningitidis, the causative agent of epidemic meningitis, is a significant public health burden worldwide causing 1.2 million cases per year globally, with an estimated fatality rate of 10% (WHO). There are a variety of meningococcal vaccines targeting serogroups A, B, C, W, Y.

My research has focussed on the following aspects of N. meningitidis

1. Genomic epidemiology of N. meningitidis during outbreaks of invasive meningococcal disease in Western Australia.

2. The evolution of N. meningitidis in response to vaccination.

3. Dissecting the regulatory networks which control the production of endotoxin by meningococci.

My principle collaborators on this program are Dr Mitali Sarkar-Tyson (UWA), Assc/Prof Michael Wise (UWA), Prof Geoff Coombs (Murdoch Uni), Dr Shaxx Mowlaboccus (Murdoch Uni) and Dr Chris Mullally (Murdoch Uni).

Neisseria gonorrhoeae 

Neisseria gonorrhoeae is the causative agent of the sexually transmitted disease (STD) gonorrhoea and globally causes approximately 20-60 million new cases per annum (WHO). Gonococcal infection is the leading cause of pelvic inflammatory disease in women and ~ one third of patients will become infertile. Increased levels of resistance to traditional antibiotics have raised concerns for future treatment options. To date no successful vaccine strategies have been developed for this organism, primarily because the cell surface proteins elicit limited immunological protection against other strains. To enable the development of innovative approaches to the control of gonococcal infections, we propose to investigate the regulatory networks in gonococci that are important for initial colonization and survival in the human host.

My research is focussed on the following aspects of N. gonorrhoeae

1. Genomic epidemiology of N. gonorrhoeae in Western Australia.

2. The role of central protein homeostasis pathways (oxidoreductases and peptidyl-proline cis-trans isomerases [PPIase]) in bacterial pathogenesis.

3. The design of small molecule inhibitors as medical counter measures against antimicrobial resistant N. gonorrhoeae using the targets, EptA and PPIases.

My principle collaborators on this program are Prof Geoff Coombs (Murdoch Uni), Dr Shaxx Mowlaboccus (Murdoch Uni), Assc/Prof Michael Wise (UWA), Prof Martin Scanlon (Monash Uni), Dr Mitali Sarkar-Tyson (UWA), Prof Alice Vrielink (UWA) and Assc/Prof Keith Stubbs (UWA).

Teaching overview

MICR2208 Introductory Microbiology
MICR3330 Bacteria and Bacterial Diseases
MICR5831 Molecular and Cellular Microbiology

MICR5846 Molecular Epidemiology and Microbial Communities

Teaching philosophy

I have graduated 13 PhD students as the primary supervisor. I ensure that my students have a well-rounded experience, not only focussing on the research objectives necessary to obtain their thesis, but also focussing on their transferable skills for other careers outside of academia.

My past students have moved into diverse careers including: medicine, medical scientists (PathWest and Saudi Arabia), research fellow, research analysts (WA Department of Health and the Police Force) and project managment (Defence Material Technology Center). 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Research expertise keywords

  • Bacteria—genetics
  • Bacteria—Neisserial species
  • Bacteria—pathogenesis
  • Bacteria—virulence factors
  • Meningitis
  • Molecular biology


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