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WIRF is one of Australia's leading organisations that is dedicated to improving the health of women and infants.

Matt Payne

Matt Payne - Research Fellow

Matt Payne

Research Fellow
  • Dr Payne leads the microbiological research in Professor John Newnham’s preterm birth prevention initiative. He is a perinatal molecular microbiologist with specific research interests in the role of Ureaplasma spp. in preterm birth, the perinatal microbiome and use of bacteriophages as a targeted, non-antibiotic approach to treating Group B Streptococcus in pregnancy.

    Since completing his PhD at the University of Queensland in 2007, Dr Payne has conducted research on the microbiome of bronchopulmonary dysplasia in preterm neonates at Kings College London, UK, as well as research into the roles of Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans in breastfeeding infections in the NHMRC-funded CASTLE study at La Trobe University, Melbourne. He has published over 40 peer-reviewed journal articles relating to this and his ongoing perinatal microbiology research which he currently conducts from the University of Western Australia. 

    To date, Dr Payne has been awarded $1,323,848 AUD and £18,250 GBP in peer-reviewed, competitive grant funding as a chief investigator. This represents 18 individual grants (10 as CIA), of which two are NHMRC-funded (CIC-$563,493 and CIJ-$39,951). $1,287,068 AUD and £11,940 GBP of this funding has been awarded within the past five years.

    Dr Payne is also actively involved in the local and national scientific community where he holds positions on the University of Western Australia Human Ethics Committee and the Australian Society for Medical Research WA branch committee. He has also provided assistance to the National Health and Medical Research Council in his role as an external grant assessor (2016) and member of the microbiology NHMRC grant review panel (2017).
  • Prevention of Infection-Driven Preterm Birth

    Since beginning his research into the role of Ureaplasma sp. in preterm birth in 2012, Dr Payne has published 11 peer-reviewed articles specifically relating to this organism. Of note, his recent study in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth was the first study to ever show a link between U. parvum genotype and risk of preterm birth. Data from this study was subsequently used to power the NHMRC-funded Predict1000 study that he currently works on, which aims to develop a novel molecular test for prediction of high-risk pregnancies based upon specific vaginal microbial markers in mid-gestation. Other notable studies include the development of novel diagnostic molecular assays for detection of Ureaplasma parvum and its genotypes directly from clinical samples. A focal point of Dr Payne’s research to date has been to attempt to change the long standing belief that it is not necessary to screen for Ureaplasma spp. in high-risk pregnant women. His research has since demonstrated that it is crucial to determine species (U. parvum) and genotype (SV6) in order to attain clinically beneficial information. His most recent publication describes a new molecular assay born from a collaborative venture with an Australian molecular diagnostics company (SpeeDx) that has potential for clinical use in Australia at a later date.
    Group B Streptococcus in Western Australian Pregnant Women

    Dr Payne currently supervises a 3rd year PhD candidate, Ms Lucy Furfaro, who has been conducting research into the epidemiology of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) in Western Australian pregnant women. GBS are separated into 10 different serotypes and Ms Furfaro’s work has demonstrated that the serotype distribution in Western Australia is significantly different to that of other Australian states and Oceania. The results of this research are likely to significantly benefit any future attempts to introduce GBS vaccination to replace current antibiotic prophylaxis. In addition, through this work, Dr Payne/Ms Furfaro have developed a novel multiplex diagnostic molecular test to concurrently detect and identify the three most clinically relevant serotypes of GBS in DNA from vaginal/rectal swabs. This work was recently accepted for publication in Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Journal.

    Bacteriophage Therapy for Targeted, Non-Antibiotic Treatment of Group B Streptococcus

    In addition to GBS epidemiology, Ms Furfaro’s research is also focusing on the identification of bacterial viruses known as bacteriophages that have antibacterial activity against GBS strains from pregnant women. Bacteriophages were once widely used for treatment of bacterial infection in the pre-antibiotic era and have the major benefit of being specific for their bacterial hosts, leaving the surrounding microbiota untouched and having no known negative effects on humans. Such a targeted approach to removal of GBS from the vagina and rectum during pregnancy would likely result in significant reductions in antenatal antibiotic use, something that would likely be of substantial benefit to newborn infants, in addition to helping to reduce the potential for the development of antibiotic resistance through continued widespread prophylactic use. To date, Ms Furfaro has isolated four bacteriophages with substantial activity against maternal and infant GBS strains.

    Dr Payne is currently working towards establishing a Western Australian Bacteriophage Therapy Initiative, through a new collaboration with Professor Jon Iredell from The Westmead Institute/University of Sydney.
    • Prevention of infection-driven preterm birth through development of a universal diagnostic test to identify high-risk pregnancies
    • Predict1000 (Microbial markers for the prevention of preterm birth)
    • Identification of lytic bacteriophages with activity against vaginal isolates of Streptococcus agalactiae in a cohort of pregnant women
    • Development of a multiplex PCR assay to simultaneously detect group B streptococcus and neonatal sepsis-associated serotypes
    • Development of a multi-locus sequence typing scheme for Ureaplasma parvum and Ureaplasma urealyticum
    • FASM Admitted to the Australian Society for Microbiology as a fellow, 2015
    • PhD. in Molecular Microbiology/Microbial Ecology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, 2007
    • Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Microbiology/Aquaculture, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, 2002
  • Dr Payne was admitted to the Australian Society for Microbiology as a Fellow (FASM) in 2015. This is a peer-reviewed title that formally recognises his expertise in perinatal microbiology and contributions to the field.

    1. Payne, M. S. and Bayatibojakhi, S. (2014) Exploring preterm birth as a polymicrobial disease: An overview of the uterine microbiome. Frontiers in Immunology. 5: 595. This article critically reviewed the literature on the microbiology of preterm birth and provided numerous recommendations for future research endeavours in this field. It has been cited over 40 times since its publication in December 2014.
    2. Payne, M. S., Ireland, D. J., Watts, R., et al. (2016) Ureaplasma parvum genotype, combined vaginal colonisation with Candida albicans, and spontaneous preterm birth in an Australian cohort of pregnant women. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 16(1): 312. Documented the association between vaginal Ureaplasma parvum, but not U. urealyticum, and preterm birth. In addition, was the first study to ever link U. parvum genotype with preterm birth, potentially providing a novel microbial biomarker for risk screening.
    3. Payne, M. S., Feng, Z., Li, S., et al. (2014) Second trimester amniotic fluid cytokine concentrations, Ureaplasma sp. colonisation status and sexual activity as predictors of preterm birth in Chinese and Australian women. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. Examined whether second trimester amniotic fluid cytokine levels, Ureaplasma sp. colonisation and sexual activity predict PTB and explain the differential PTB rates in Chinese compared to Australian women. Second trimester amniocentesis for measurement of inflammatory markers and Ureaplasma sp. DNA was not indicative of risk of PTB in these populations, nor was sexual activity.
    4. Payne, M. S., Miura, Y., Keelan, J. A., et al. (2014) Maternal Intravenous Treatment with Either Azithromycin or Solithromycin Clears Ureaplasma parvum from the Amniotic Fluid in an Ovine Model of Intrauterine Infection. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 58(9):5413-20. Assessed whether combined intraamniotic (IA) and maternal intravenous (IV) treatment with one of two candidate antibiotics, azithromycin (AZ) or solithromycin (SOLI), would eradicate intrauterine Ureaplasma parvum infection in a sheep model of pregnancy. Treatment with either AZ or SOLI (IV only or IV+IA) effectively eradicated macrolide-sensitive U. parvum from the amniotic fluid.
    5. Payne, M. S., Tabone, T., Kemp, M. W., et al. (2014) High-resolution melt PCR analysis for the genotyping of Ureaplasma parvum directly from clinical samples. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. Described the first HRM PCR assay for the single-step genotyping of U. parvum from a clinical sample. Considering the inherently low GC content associated with the U. parvum genome and the principles of HRM PCR, this represents a significant achievement in assay design. This assay was used to document U. parvum genotype in vaginal swabs in (2).
For over 40 years, WIRF has conducted and supported research to improve the health of women and infants.

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