Dr Rhys White is a computational biologist focusing on microbial genomics, particularly in the field of pathogenic microorganisms. His research combines genomics and evolutionary biology to address fundamental questions about pathogen evolution. By utilising advanced genomic techniques and bioinformatics, including short-read sequencing technologies and Oxford Nanopore Technologies long-reads, Rhys’ work sheds light on the evolution, emergence, and dissemination of pathogens. During his time at ESR, he has been instrumental in analysing and reporting COVID-19 and New Zealand’s responses. The team worked many long hours to provide valuable intelligence to clinicians and collaborate with Pacific Island Nations. As part of this Rhys has disseminated the reports in a more accessible language to empower communities to interpret genomic data to combat the pandemic.
Rhys has made substantial contributions to the field of microbial genomics, with a number of publications focusing on Chlamydia species genomics. Notably, he was a part of the team who were the first to present whole-genome sequences for two complete Chlamydia pecorum genomes collected from diseased koalas in Australia, which contributed to our understanding of these elusive pathogens. His innovative work on estimating the timeline of potential spillover events of Chlamydia psittaci between equine (horses) and avian (birds) hosts in Australia is a landmark contribution. Rhys is also part of the team that sequenced the first Chlamydia psittaci genomes from Aotearoa New Zealand. His expertise has garnered recognition nationally and internationally, and he has presented his work at renowned international conferences. His insights have influenced key decisions concerning bioinformatic approaches and experimental design in the field.
White RT, Taylor W, Klukowski N, Vaughan-Higgins R, Williams E, Petrovski S, Rose JJA, Sarker S. A discovery down under: decoding the draft genome sequence of Pantoea stewartii from Australia’s Critically Endangered western ground parrot/kyloring (Pezoporus flaviventris). Microbial Genomics 2023;9:001101 doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.001101(external link)
White RT, Kasimov V, Foxwell J, Jenkins C, Gedye K, Pannekoek Y, Jelocnik M. Whole-genome sequencing of Chlamydia psittaci from Australasian avian hosts: A genomics approach to a pathogen that still ruffles feathers. Microbial Genomics 2023;9:001072 doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.001072(external link)
Jelocnik M, White RT, Clune T, O’Connell J, Foxwell J, Hair S, Besier S, Tom L, Phillips N, Robbins A, Bogema D. Molecular characterisation of the Australian and New Zealand livestock Chlamydia pecorum strains confirms novel but clonal ST23 in association with ovine foetal loss. Veterinary Microbiology 2023;283:109774 doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2023.109774(external link)
White RT, Jelocnik M, Klukowski N, Haque H, Sarker S. The first genomic insight into Chlamydia psittaci sequence type (ST)24 from a healthy captive psittacine host in Australia demonstrates evolutionary proximity with strains from psittacine, human, and equine hosts. Veterinary Microbiology 2023;280:109704 doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2023.109704(external link)
White RT, Anstey SI, Kasimov V, Jenkins C, Devlin J, El-Hage C, Pannekoek Y, Legione AR, Jelocnik M. One clone to rule them all: Culture-independent genomics of Chlamydia psittaci from equine and avian hosts in Australia. Microbial Genomics 2022;8:000888 doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.000888(external link)
Omalekia L, Blackall PJ, Cuddihy T, White RT, Courtice JM, Turnia C, Forde BM, Beatson SA. Phase variation in the glycosyltransferase genes of Pasteurella multocida associated with outbreaks of fowl cholera on free-range layer farms. Microbial Genomics 2022 8:000772 doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.000772(external link)
White RT, Legione AR, Taylor-Brown A, Fernandez C, Higgins DP, Timms P, Jelocnik M. Completing the genome sequence of Chlamydia pecorum strains MC/MarsBar and DBDeUG: new insights into this enigmatic koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) pathogen. Pathogens 2021;10:1543 doi: 10.3390/pathogens10121543(external link)
White RT. Escherichia coli: placing resistance to third-generation cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones in Australia and New Zealand into perspective. Microbiology Australia 2021;2:104-110 doi: 10.1071/MA21031(external link)
Kidsley AK, White RT, Beatson SA, Saputra S, Schembri MA, Gordon D, Johnson JR, O’Dea M, Mollinger JL, Abraham S, Trott DJ. Companion animals are spillover hosts of the multidrug-resistant human extraintestinal Escherichia coli pandemic clones ST131 and ST1193. Frontiers in Microbiology 2020;11:1968 doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.01968(external link)