Massey University’s Molecular Epidemiology and Public Health Laboratory (mEpiLab) is located within the Hopkirk Research Institute on the Palmerston North campus and is jointly led by Professor David Hayman and  Associate Professor Jackie Benschop. The mEpiLab was established by Prof Nigel French in March 2007, who is now co-director of Infectious Disease Research Platform (IDRP).

Our mission is to improve the health of New Zealanders by developing and applying new techniques to inform decision making and guide the prevention and control of infectious disease.

mEpiLab and the EpiCentre form an OIE collaborating Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health. Our research has improved our understanding of the epidemiology, evolution and control of agents of infectious disease and contributed to major reductions in the rates of foodborne disease in New Zealand.  The team comprises scientists with expertise in the fields of epidemiology, microbiology, molecular biology, bioinformatics/computational biology, mathematical modelling, veterinary science and public health. We work closely with collaborators in the Crown Research Institutes (AgResearch, ESR, NIWA), regional public health units and other groups across Massey University on pathogens such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, E. coli, Leptospira, Cryptosporidium and Giardia.   We develop and apply epidemiological and evolutionary models to understand sources and pathways of human infection, and inform control strategies. 


Our expertise 

mepilab-lab.jpgOur work has led to a significant drop in the rates of foodborne disease in New Zealand. We have expertise in epidemiology, microbiology, molecular biology, bioinformatics/computational biology, mathematical modelling, veterinary science and public health. The pathogens we commonly work with include:

Escherichia coli

Our work contributes towards the control of Escherichia coli O157 and other Shiga toxin-producing E coli (STECs) in the food chain. We are part of the FRST- and industry-funded Improved Pathogen Control Technologies programme, a collaboration between Environmental Science and Research, AgResearch and Massey. It includes studies into phage control and quorum sensing. Two mEpiLab PhD students are working on epidemiological studies of the transmission and propagation of STECs at meat-processing plants and along the food chain .


We have considerable expertise in Campylobacter culturing, geno- and phenotyping, and assessment of pathogen survival. We have developed a world-renowned body of work with source attribution modelling of this very common pathogen in New Zealand. This programme, funded by the Food Safety Authority within the Ministry of Primary Industries, the livestock industries, the Health Research Council and the Royal Society Marsden fund, has advanced understanding of the epidemiology, evolution and emergence of Campylobacter and contributed to a dramatic decline in human cases.


We are adept at culturing and genotyping Leptospira. We work with the Epicentre at Massey on epidemiological studies aimed at the prevention and control of infection in abattoir workers and evaluate the use of vaccine-based control measures in animal populations. 


We’ve been developing and optimising surveillance systems for Salmonella in humans and animals using advanced molecular and spatial modelling tools. We’ve developed modular process risk models that capture the propagation of Salmonella during slaughter and along the food chain, and we’re collaborating with the Enteric Reference Laboratory at Environmental Science and Research on a national study to assign human cases to potential mammalian and avian sources of infection.

Cryptosporidium and Giardia

Our protozoal team runs molecular genotyping and infectivity assays for these pathogens (funded by Ministry of Health). Our work includes screening isolates from surface and ground water, including waste water from meat processing plants, and the assessment of catchments used for the supply of drinking and recreational water. 

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria

We helped to design the first national survey of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in livestock species, which was conducted in 2009, and we have also conducted smaller surveys for the pork and poultry industries. We are collaborating with medical colleagues to establish a programme of work characterising the multidrug-resistant bacteria (such as ESBL-producing Gram negatives and MRSA) in companion animals, and we’re studying the links between drug-resistant bacteria in people, their pets and their environments.

Learn more about our staff, location and associated groups.