Doctor Stephen Sharpe


Graduated PhD 2022

Thesis title

RNA Virus Diversity, Prevalence and Host Effects in Australian Tephritid Fruit Flies

Research Project

Australian tephritid fruit flies are the most significant pests in Australian horticulture. They cause economic losses of between $28.5 million to $100 million AUD, the majority of which is caused by the major pest the Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni). Traditional methods of control have become limited; with dimethoate and fenthion now restricted due to negative impacts on human health and the environment. Furthermore, very little is known about pathogens that impact this fruit fly or other Australian tephritid fruit flies. Therefore the main aims of this research are to:

  1. Discover and characterise existing and novel viruses
  2. Characterise virus transmission and the impacts of virus infection on the host
  3. To determine the prevalence of these viruses in fruit fly populations across different regions

Outcomes of this research will provide an understanding of interactions of viruses and fruit flies which may eventually lead to new avenues for biocontrol, screening for healthy Sterile Insect Technique program (SIT) insects and viral epidemiology.


Sharpe SR, Morrow JL, Brettell LE, Shearman DC, Gilchrist AS, Cook JM, Riegler M, (2021) 'Tephritid fruit flies have a large diversity of co-occurring RNA viruses', Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, vol.186, Article no.107569


Associate Professor Markus Riegler, Dr Jennifer Morrow, Professor James Cook, Dr Alexie Papanicolaou