Understanding fluke evolutionary biology: finding new ways to sustainably monitor, predict and assess the biological impact of parasite adaptation and regulatory mechanisms
Start date1 October 2024
Funding sourceFoodBioSystems Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP)
The studentship is predominately open to students with UK/home fees status. While international students (including EU countries) can apply, due to funding rules no more than 30% of the projects can be allocated to international students. The funding will include a tax-free stipend (salary) that is paid in instalments throughout the year for four years so that you can benefit from the DTP training programme in addition to completing your research and submitting your thesis within 4 years registration period. £18,622 (or £20,622 (including £2,000 London allowance) for a studentship based at Brunel University). The pay increases slightly each year at rate set by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
Flukes are group of parasitic flatworms that cause disease in livestock animals and humans. These trematodes have complex life cycles, and cause significant economic losses to infected hosts. For example, liver flukes - Fasciola hepatica and Fasciola gigantica - are the cause of fasciolosis, a neglected tropical disease. Infections caused by these parasites can spread to humans and it is estimated that the disease cost the UK cattle industry at least £23 million annually. Unfortunately, there is currently no commercially available vaccine against the disease.
Previous efforts have produced the genomic sequence of the parasite, and this dataset has provided insight into structural and functional mechanisms in the parasite. Despite this, less is known about how these liver flukes can rapidly evolve to evade drugs and host immune system. An understanding of gene regulatory mechanisms will enable us to appreciate how the parasite adapts rapidly. In this project the student will undertake a comparative genomic evolutionary analysis of liver fluke and other trematode regulatory genes and other known key genes associated with drug resistance. This will enable us to predict promising drug targets to focus on. We will use available sequence data from these trematodes to improve understanding of fluke biology, crucial proteins, and drug resistance mechanisms in the parasite.
In addition to investigate genetic diversity of fluke populations across the UK, the student will generate and assembling high quality parasite genomic sequences from liver fluke. In order to address the poor genomic structural and functional annotation of fluke liver fluke regulatory mechanisms, the student will leverage on new and existing data on various databases (such as Wormbase Parasite) to develop a user-friendly bioinformatics tool to improve the annotations and to analyse liver fluke gene regulatory mechanisms.
Open to any UK or international candidates. Up to 30% of our UKRI funded studentships can be awarded to candidates paying international rate fees. Find out more about eligibility.
For detailed information on eligibility, application details, and selection process, kindly refer to the FoodBioSystems DTP page (https://research.reading.ac.uk/foodbiosystems/apply-for-a-foodbiosystems-phd/for-phd-students-2/#P4).
You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our Veterinary Medicine and Science PhD research course.
This project (PDF) would be suitable for students with background in a course relevant to the project (parasitology, veterinary sciences, molecular genetics, biological sciences, computational biology) with evidence of laboratory and bioinformatics experience. The project will have a significant big data analysis component andso intermediate coding experience and some “omic” data analysis experience is desirable. Demonstrated experience in working with parasites or other pathogens coupled with data analysis is also desirable. Students interested in parasite biology, evolutionary biology and drug discovery platforms are also encouraged to apply.
How to apply
Initial applications must be made via the FoodBioSystems DTP application system (https://foodbiosystemsdtp.grantplatform.com/). Kindly refer to https://research.reading.ac.uk/foodbiosystems/apply-for-a-foodbiosystems-phd/for-phd-students-2/#P4 for additional information and check the applicant guidance (PDF).
Read our studentship FAQs to find out more about applying and funding.