The role of the Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory (MDU PHL) is to collaborate with health professionals to provide vital analytic services and technical advice in public health microbiology to inform public health policy and practice. Serving the community since 1897, the MDU PHL is the longest continuously serving public health laboratory in Australia with its primary responsibility to elicit any public health implications from microorganisms such as bacteria from humans, animals, food, water and the environment. The MDU PHL is also home to Doherty Applied Microbial Genomics, which has been recently launched to facilitate research relevant to understanding the role of microbial genomics in public health and clinical microbiology practice in Australia and to provide leadership and training in this field. MDU PHL is also the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Reference Laboratory for Invasive Bacterial-Vaccine Preventable Diseases (IB-VPD).

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Our Location & Contact Details

Microbiological Diagnostic Unit
Level 1, Peter Doherty Institute
University of Melbourne
792 Elizabeth St Melbourne 3000
+61 3 8344 5701
Opening Hours
Weekdays: 8.45am until 5pm

Our History

We work closely with the Victorian Health Department, local government authorities, diagnostic laboratories, industry bodies and others to protect public health.

As Melbourne grew quickly into a large city by world standards in the 1880s, all manner of waste was dumped into open street channels, which ran into the Yarra River and Hobsons Bay, causing epidemics of fatal typhoid and diphtheria and polluting waterways.

In 1890 a Royal Commission into the sanitary condition of Melbourne identified a need for a specialist laboratory in Victoria to carry out bacteriological examinations, along with its recommendation for a sewage farm that led to the development of the Western Treatment Plant at Werribee. The Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory (formerly also known as Public Health Laboratory and Bacteriology Laboratory) was established in 1897, the same year that the first Melbourne homes were connected to the sewerage system.

We are the longest continuously serving public health laboratory in Australia.

copy of original service contract with Department of Health
Photograph of the original service contract with the Department of Health