Cohort 2 projects

Please find the list of available projects for an October 2024 start below

Assessing the risks of zoonoses from the warming Arctic

The Arctic is warming at 4x the global average, glacier demise, Greenland Ice Sheet destabilisation, extensive permafrost thawing, more frequent and intense rainfall events, expanded human economic activity and geopolitical tensions. This has consequences which reach beyond the Arctic, including the emerging potential for zoonoses. Frozen water and soil stored vast numbers of different kinds of microbes for millennia, but these are now re-emerging. Culturing and genomics reveal that permafrost and glaciers can store potential zoonotic pathogens. This PhD’s core aim will be to deliver a highly skilled individual with the training and research experience in Arctic microbiology, glaciology, surveying, and pathogen genomics essential for achieving this.

Supervised by Dr Arwyn Edwards at Aberystwyth University. Co-supervised by Dr Tristram Irvine-Fynn (Aberystwyth University), Professor Chris Creevey (Queen’s University Belfast). External Partner is Deri Jones and Associates. 




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Applying molecular tools for the detection of zoonotic helminths in Eastern Africa

In economically developing countries, the growth of human populations brings animal, humans and wildlife into closer contact. The blood fluke Schistosoma bovis is a water borne parasite responsible for significant pathology and reduction in productivity in cattle. Schistosoma haematobium is a major pathogen of humans, causing chronic disease and is one of two helminth parasites classified as a cancer-causing agent. Both pathogens are present across large regions of Africa, including Uganda, with hybrid species representing a distinct zoonotic threat to humans. A better understanding of the distribution and extent of important diseases, such as schistosomiasis, is critical for reducing disease prevalence and improved food production in many parts of the world. Diagnostics for many helminth diseases currently rely on low sensitivity, low throughput, microscopic methods. New diagnostic assays, targeting either proteins, antibodies, or DNA, represent medium throughput approaches with improved sensitivity for the detection of active disease. The student will develop and apply such new molecular methods for the detection of schistosomes within Uganda.

Supervised by Professor Geoffrey Gobert at Queen’s University Belfast. Co-supervised by Dr Gabriel Rinaldi (Aberystwyth University) and Dr Mark Robinson (Queen’s University Belfast). External Partner is the Mbarara University of Science and Technology.





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Assessing the impact of land use on Schistosomiasis transmission sites

Schistosomiasis is a water-based disease that can lead to organ damage, infertility, and numerous under-recognised morbidities, including stunting. Despite being a treatable and preventable disease, schistosomiasis affects around 250 million people worldwide.  Transmission zones require suitable habitats for intermediate host snails. This multi-disciplinary project touches on all three CDT themes, with a focus on a) disease preparedness by using remote sensing for environmental monitoring of snail habitats and b) diseases transmission by studying the effects of environmental change and c) disease control, by highlighting the effects of changing land use such as deforestation.

Supervised by Dr Laura Braun at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Co-supervised by Dr Andy Hardy (Aberystwyth University). External Partner is the Natural History Museum, London.





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Ancient Zoo: Parasite diversity and zoonotic events in ancient Britain

Emerging infectious diseases (diseases that have newly appeared in a population; EIDs) are one of the greatest threats to human health and global stability. However, for almost all EIDs, nothing is known of their past prevalence. This historic information is essential for assessing trajectories of population abundance, and in turn determine whether a disease is genuinely newly emerging, and any long-term changes in prevalence. This project aims to:    - Improve our methods for detecting infection, and our understanding of wildlife pathology, by investigating the correlation between morphological and molecular measures of infection in faunal remains.  - Identify first occurrence and changes in parasite diversity across British wildlife through historic and prehistoric times, and investigate correlations with landscape management, animal husbandry, proximity to settlement, and wildlife biodiversity and abundance.  - Reconstruct the ancestry and evolutionary history of our present-day wildlife diseases, and the extent to which they have undergone molecular evolution and adaptation over time, with respect to changes in climate, and land use.

Supervised by Dr David Stanton at Cardiff University. Co-supervised by Dr Richard Madgwick (Cardiff University), Dr Sarah  Perkins (Cardiff University) and Dr Iain Chalmers (Aberystwyth University). External Partner is the Natural History Museum, London.





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Detecting Schistosoma in Bornean Water Buffalo and implications of environmental variables for zoonotic transmission in the context of climate change

This project will investigate Schistosomiasis in Bornean buffaloes using novel cell free DNA approaches and will determine the presence of Schistosoma in water bodies associated to buffalo farming.  Across Southeast Asia, over 200 million people are at risk of Schistosoma infection with up to 200,000 dying of the disease yearly. The PhD will provide i) information about the prevalence of S. japonicum in water buffaloes, ii) the geographical distribution of the pathogen, iii) the exposure of humans to the pathogen, and iv) the likely future distribution of the parasite under climate change.

Supervised by Dr Pablo Orozco-terWengel at Cardiff University. Co-supervised by Dr Laura Braun (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and Dr Michael Arribas-Ayllon (Cardiff University). External Partner is the Danau Girang Field Centre, Borneo.





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Development of an innovative lure and kill strategy for the control of mosquito adults and juveniles

The entomopathogenic fungus (EPF) Metarhizium brunneum and the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis var israelensis have been shown to be highly efficacious in the control of mosquito larvae. The EPF is also known to kill mosquito adults and eggs. We propose to develop lures to attract the adults and larvae to the control agent. This innovative strategy will prove to be a more efficacious and cost-effective approach. This research addresses the real-world challenge of cost-effective mosquito control by harnessing the natural efficacy of these microbes and enhancing their deployment through attractants. : 1.Develop blends of the most powerful attractants to lure adult mosquitoes. 2.Screen algae and algal secretions as attractants to lure mosquito larvae. 3.Develop formulations of attractants and control agent(s). 4. Determine the efficacy of formulated products in small field trials.

Supervised by Professor Colin Berry at Cardiff University. Co-supervised by Dr Islam Sobhy (Cardiff University), Professor Tariq Butt (Swansea University), Professor Jamie Dick (Queen’s University Belfast). External Partner is Russell IPM. 





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Efficacy of nature-based systems for treatment of chemicals used for zoonoses control

Veterinary pharmaceuticals and chemicals used to control zoonoses are often applied in settings (such as farms) where control of runoff and collected effluents are far removed from conventional wastewater works. As such there is potential for accidental contamination of surface waters. This situation would be particularly acute during and large-scale applications of veterinary pharmaceuticals that were used (for example) to control a major zoonoses outbreak. Globally, NbS have started to be used widely as a practical solution for removal and treatment of contaminants in farm-run off and also for rural communities not connected to the main sewerage network. Specific research questions for the project are around (i) the chemical analyses and determination of ecotoxicity of natural biodegradation products of selected veterinary pharmaceuticals from NbS (ii) establishment of engineering design principles for biobeds for this application (e.g. media type, retention time) (iii) kinetics and mechanistic elements of biodegradation and (iv) an elucidation of the role of microbiological community and biogeochemical interactions in treatment.

Supervised by Professor Devin Sapsford at Cardiff University. Co-supervised by Dr Ben Ward (Cardiff University), Professor Jo Cable (Cardiff University), Dr Niek Buurma (Cardiff University) and Professor Andy Mitchell (Aberystwyth University). External Partner is the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH). 




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Environmental health and infectious disease: how chemical cocktails help drive emerging zoonoses in mammals

Pandemic preparedness urgently requires joint working across animal, human and environmental health. Chemical contaminants such as perfluorinated substances (PFAS) are immunotoxic, and thus may increase susceptibility to zoonotic infections like influenza, facilitating greater virus burden, mammalian adaptation and zoonotic potential. Interdisciplinary research is needed to help understand the importance of such interacting stressors for wildlife/human health. The proposed PhD will take an interdisciplinary approach linking the detection and monitoring of wildlife disease, and evaluating whether immune response and susceptibility (and mammal/human adaptation) are influenced by chemical pollution.

Supervised by Dr Connor Bamford at Queen’s University Belfast. Co-supervised by Dr Liz Chadwick (Cardiff University), Dr Frank Hailer (Cardiff University) and Professor Rachael Tarlinton (University of Nottingham). External Partner is Public Health Wales.


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Environmental stress and zoonotic disease emergence in rangeland herbivores under climate warming

This project will investigate the relationship between environmental and host stress and the invasion of pathogens implicated in wildlife mortality events in diverse rangeland systems. Hence, to advance understanding of the drivers of disease emergence under global climate change. A series of unusual mass mortality events (MME) caused by ostensibly commensal bacteria have recently been observed in association with climate anomalies. Around 240,000 saiga antelopes, most of the global population, died over three weeks in 2015 after Pasteurella multocida bacteria normally present in the airways became invasive during warm, humid weather. Investigation into MME is usually reactive and a normal baseline for comparison is lacking, so new technologies that allow mining of informative past environmental signatures could prove valuable. Proposed work streams are: 1) Climate anomaly analysis, 2) Field sampling for historical signals of disease hazard, 3) Mesocosm experiments and 4) Disease modelling.

Supervised by Professor Eric Morgan at Queen’s University Belfast. Co-supervised by Professor Helen Roe (Queen’s University Belfast), Dr David Stanton (Cardiff University) and Dr Joao Filipe (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). External Partner is the University of Botswana. 





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EVOZOOM - Evolution and Zoonotic Epidemiology of Bovine Tuberculosis

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a complex, multi-host disease, amongst the greatest threats to UK cattle production, costing the economy £100 million annually. Failure to control bTB is exacerbated by limitations in understanding transmission, especially the role of wildlife and indirect transmission of M. bovis via contaminated environmental matrices. Historic zoonotic cases are a window into the past that allow comparison of genomes and phenotypes from pre- and post-bottleneck lineages of M. bovis. Proposed work-streams: i – Establish a reference database of contemporary and historic human and animal M. bovis genome sequences for zoonotic infection source tracing. ii -Bayesian phylodynamic approaches to infer likely rates of transmission between cattle, wildlife, the environment and humans. iii - Phylogenetic analyses to identify ‘outliers’ from pre-bottleneck lineages and find homoplastic variants.

Supervised by Professor Irene Grant at Queen’s University Belfast. Co-supervised by Professor Glyn Hewinson (Aberystwyth University), Dr Derek Fairley (Queen’s University Belfast) and Professor Paulo Prodohl (Queens University Belfast). External Partner is the  Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI). 

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Examining the potential of environmental DNA analysis and enhanced biosecurity for the management of Zoonotic Iceberg Diseases on Sheep Farms

This project will combine eDNA monitoring with an evaluation of farm biosecurity to control zoonotic iceberg diseases of sheep. Iceberg diseases are a group of 5 untreatable wasting diseases which cause significant losses to the sheep industry. In recent years, substantial increases in the prevalence of these diseases have been observed in UK sheep flocks, which has been compounded by poor farmer awareness/understanding and by limitations of diagnosis methods. Of particular concern are Ovine Johne’s Disease (OJD), caused by M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) and Caseous Lymphadenitis (CLA), caused by C. pseudotuberculosis, which are zoonotic. Recently, substantial progress has been made in the field of eDNA analysis, where large volumes of water/air can be screened for the presence of pathogen genetic material which can indicate the presence/prevalence of pathogens in the environment and potentially in host animals. This proposed project has two aims. 1) develop and utilise an eDNA assay to screen environmental matrices to identify the presence of C. pseudotuberculosis and MAP and 2) to evaluate current sheep farmer biosecurity policies and seek to develop guidance for behavioural interventions to reduce disease risks associated with sheep trading and between farm movements.

Supervised by Dr Rhys Jones at Aberystwyth University. Co-supervised by Professor Gareth Enticott (Cardiff University) and Dr Cennydd Jones (Aberystwyth University). External Partner is Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat promotion Wales. 





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FlukEEE: Exploitation of Extracellular Vesicles via Ellipsometry – Diagnostics of the Liver Fluke

Fasciola hepatica (Fh) infection leads to human/animal fasciolosis causing substantial clinical/subclinical symptoms. We have developed a novel assay based on protein ellipsometry of extracellular vesicles (EVs) to support the diagnostics of Fh. Potential Fh EV markers can be identified through a combined proteomic and bioinformatic pipeline and EV markers are hypothesised to be unique to Fh compared to any host generated EVs. In addition, this project will address whether Fh EVs pass through the digestive tract and exit the host in faeces as demonstrated for Fh antigens. Objective 1: Determine optimal surface protein markers for Fh extracellular vesicles (EV). Objective 2: Assessment of EV surface protein candidates for Ellipsometry. Objective 3: EV purification from Fh infected and uninfected host faeces.

Supervised by Dr Russ Morphew at Aberystwyth University. Co-supervised by: Dr Mark Robinson (Queen’s University Belfast), Dr Dave Langstaff (Aberystwyth University) Dr Matt Gunn (Aberystwyth University), and Sioned Timothy (Aberystwyth University). External Partner is the Wales Veterinary Science Centre.




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Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Wales: Evaluation of Anthropogenic and Avian Risk Factors

This project explores key risk factors - those caused by wild birds and by human activities and/or attitudes - for a highly dangerous disease that affects people, domestic poultry and wild birds. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is a global, devastating disease of poultry caused by avian influenza virus with H5N8 or H5N1 strains being the most reported since 2020. It is a zoonosis with pandemic potential should reassortment happen when different influenza viruses from people, birds or pigs mix in the same host, and subsequent transmission of a novel strain. We are interested in better understanding the nature of the HPAI outbreaks in Wales, how these compare to elsewhere in the United Kingdom and whether the virus is present in certain species of wild birds. We will also be gaining perspectives from poultry owners on their role and responsibility in preventing outbreaks.

Supervised by Professor Darrell Abernethy at Aberystwyth University. Co-supervised by Dr Connor Bamford (Queen’s University Belfast), Dr Justin Pachebat (Aberystwyth University), Dr Simon Payne (Aberystwyth University) and Dr Isa-Rita Russo (Cardiff University). External Partner is the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). 





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Identifying exposure pathways for environmentally transmitted zoonoses (Leptospira spp. and T. gondii) in climate-vulnerable peri-urban informal settlements in Brazil.

Over 2 billion people live in urban informal settlements that are characterised by environmental degradation and unsanitary conditions and vulnerable to extreme weather events driven by climate change. These socio-ecological and climatic conditions favour environmental transmission of zoonotic diseases, such as Leptospira and Toxoplasma gondii, which can persist in water and wet soil for long periods, making them sensitive to rainfall events and flooding. This project will examine how socio-demographic and environmental processes that drive zoonotic spillover of Leptospira and T. gondii interact with flooding events in marginalised urban communities in the city of Salvador, Brazil.

Supervised by Dr Max Eyre at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Co-supervised by: Dr Robert Dreibelbis (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and Dr Sara Macbride-Stewart (Cardiff University). External Partners are the Institute of Collective Health, Federal University of Bahia and Instituto Goncalo Moniz, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation. 





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Improved Detection of Bovine Tuberculosis Infected Cattle using Artificial Intelligence

Bovine Tuberculosis is caused by M. bovis which can also infect humans and many other mammals. Thus, M.  bovis is a One Health threat as zoonotic infection and by its effect on cattle productivity and consequent threat of food security. The current statutory test, the single intradermal cervical comparative tuberculin test, has a 99.98% specificity and 80% sensitivity. Animals co-infected with M. avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) and M. bovis are at greatest risk of being diagnosed as false negatives. Thus, co-infection requires the development of more specific tests that are not affected by the presence of other environmental mycobacteria. The main goal of the project is to develop an AI system for early identification of MAP and M.  bovis co-infected animals.

Supervised by Dr Otar Akanyeti at Aberystwyth University. Co-supervised by Professor Bernardo Villareal-Ramos (Aberystwyth University), Dr Amanda Gibson (Aberystwyth University), Professor Ilias Kyriazakis (Queens University Belfast) and Dr Martin Swain (Aberystwyth University). External Partner is the Animal and Plant Health Agency. 





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Investigating the relationship between market hygiene and human immunity, and the risk of spill over of avian influenza viruses from poultry to humans in live poultry markets in Bangladesh

Avian Influenza Viruses (AIV) are endemic in poultry in Bangladesh. While there is agreement that in places where AIVs are endemic in poultry, live poultry markets are potential hotspots for emergence and amplification of pandemic viruses, there are gaps in understanding what factors drive the risk of spill over given exposure in such settings. Aims of the PhD project: the student will investigate determinants of AIV spill-over risk at the human-poultry interface in live poultry markets in Bangladesh, focusing on the role of market hygiene and human immune resistance to infection given exposure.

Supervised by Dr Patrick Nguipdop Djomo at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Co-supervised by Professor Punam Mangtani (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and Professor Zhiwen Luo (Cardiff University). External Partner is the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, Bangladesh. 





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microSENSE: towards a rapid and automated biosensor for zoonotic disease

Bacillus anthracis is zoonotic pathogen and causative agent of anthrax. microSENSE aims to develop a prototype biosensor for rapid, automated detection and surveillance of B. anthracis in the field. The project is led by an established team of interdisciplinary researchers, highly experienced in biosensor R&D. The team spans Life Sciences, Pharmacy and Engineering, within both Cardiff (project base) and Aberystwyth Universities. Prototype field testing will be facilitated through collaboration with Kafkas University (Kars, Turkey), an anthrax endemic region.

Supervised by Dr Heungjae Choi and Dr Catrin Williams at Cardiff University. Co-supervised by Dr Justin Pachebat (Aberystwyth University) and Professor Les Baillie (Cardiff University). External Partner is the Kafkas University, Turkey. 





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Monitoring and control of mosquito vectors for West Nile Virus (WNV) via exploration of their host location cues for mitigation of climatic driven zoonosis spread.

West Nile Virus (WNV) infection is a zoonotic disease found mainly in bird populations and spread by mosquitoes. Mosquito vector species, that spread the virus, primarily feed on birds but will occasionally feed on mammals including human individuals where suitable birds are less available. Human infection can develop into a serious, sometimes fatal, illness. Currently there are no prophylaxis or treatments for disease caused by WNV. The project analyses how mosquito vectors of WNV detect hosts by identifying active components in the mixture of host volatile chemicals, which can be used in traps to monitor and control vector populations. The project thereby encompasses preparedness for, and transmission and control of, a zoonotic disease. This project will aim to address this growing threat through monitoring and control of vectors that drive transmission via exploitation of olfactory cues. The successful student will work on identifying the naturally produced chemicals important in host location by vectors, for use in products to control vectors.

Supervised by Professor John Pickett at Cardiff University. Co-supervised by Professor Mary Cameron (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), Dr Wynand van der Goes van Naters (Cardiff University), Professor Owen Jones (Cardiff University) and Dr Sahar Kandil (Cardiff University). External Partner is Biogents AG. 





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Role of European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) as vectors and reservoirs of animal and zoonotic diseases

Common or European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) are a widespread avian species often found in close association with human developments and agriculture. The main focus of this project will be to identify pathogens present in starling faeces collected at Trawsgoed dairy farm, and at the roosting site at Aberystwyth Pier over a 3-year period. It also aims to estimate the economic impact of starling feed predation by starlings within a dairy farm, and the potential economic benefits of implementing non-lethal measures such as netting and scare devices to prevent access by starlings to farm buildings. The student will gain experience in microbial diagnostics, molecular biology, metagenomics, microscopy and bioinformatics. The student will also gain experience in field work, analysis of behaviour, handling wild birds, using radio transmitter tags and understanding of wild bird population health.

Supervised by Dr Justin Pachebat at Aberystwyth University. Co-supervised by Professor Darrell Abernethy (Aberystwyth University), Dr Rob Thomas (Cardiff University), Dr Peter Korsten (Aberystwyth University), Jim Scott-Baumann (Aberystwyth University) and Mike Cristie (Aberystwyth University). External Partner is the National Farming Union (NFU) Wales. 




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Sniffing out snails: The use of dogs in detection of zoonotic parasite intermediate hosts

This interdisciplinary project will assess the potential for dogs to detect snail intermediate hosts of zoonotic trematode parasites, comparing their efficacy with current techniques using human searches and eDNA. Fasciolosis, caused by infection with the trematodes Fasciola hepatica and Fasciola gigantica, is recognised as an emerging zoonotic disease, with an estimated 2.4 million people infected annually and 180 million considered ‘at risk’. Current methods to identify host presence requires intensive sampling of microhabitat, but habitat is not a reliable indicator of host presence. Scent detection dogs are an efficient tool in conservation, surveying large areas and detecting cryptic species effectively, outperforming human-based methods in 90% of cases, including detection of invasive snails and aquatic bivalves. This project will be the first to specifically aim to use dogs as a tool to detect gastropod intermediate parasite hosts focussing on Galba truncatula as a model species.

Supervised by Dr Sarah Dalesman at Aberystwyth University. Co-supervised by Dr Joseph Ironside (Aberystwyth University), Professor Mara Miele (Cardiff University) and Dr Rhys Jones (Aberystwyth University). External Partners are Conservation Detection Dogs Northern Ireland and Farmers Union of Wales.




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Thermal biology of midges as vectors of leishmaniasis.

Mundinia leishmaniasis is an emerging human and animal pathogen vectored by day-biting midges. We will explore the ability of these important vectors to respond to varying temperatures and assess their interaction with Leishmania (Mundinia) species. Leishmania are parasitic protozoa responsible for a spectrum of zoonotic diseases ranging from cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) to the life-threatening organ failure of visceral leishmaniasis (VL). We propose to use a multidisciplinary approach to model, test and predict Europe and UK risk based on climate variables identified to be favourable for transmission and land use changes that could influence vector distribution and vector-host contact.

Supervised by Dr Matthew Rogers at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Co-supervised by: Dr Tom Bishop (Cardiff University), Dr Laith Yakob (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). External Partner is The Pirbright Institute. 





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The switch from avirulence to virulence:  Exploiting Microsporidian to provide insight into mechanisms, host interaction, co-infection and pollution triggers

Microsporidia are a diverse group of unicellular obligate intracellular parasite, thought to represent the earliest diverging fungi. Long known to have notable zoonotic potential, they can cause fatal microsporidiosis. Efforts to develop treatments are hampered by ignorance of microsporidian molecular biology. The aims of the PhD project are 1: To characterize the host gene pathways altered by specific microsporidian parasites.   2: To identify host genes linked to reduced parasite virulence.  3: To reveal parasite genes linked to reduced virulence.  4: Identify the initiating events that result in parasite manipulation of host molecular biology.   5: Understand the importance of gene swapping due to hyperparasitism and co-infection.

Supervised by Professor Pete Kille at Cardiff University. Co-supervised by Dr Rupert Perkins (Cardiff University), Dr Joe Ironside (Aberystwyth University), Dr Stephen Short (Cardiff University) and Dr Ronny van Aerle (Cardiff University). External Partner is The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture. 





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Understanding the distribution and spread of Anopheles stephensi, a new and invasive malaria vector in Africa

WHO has identified the spread of An. stephensi as a significant threat to malaria control–particularly in Africa. This mosquito has been expanding its range over the last decade, with new detections in 7 countries in Africa since 2012.The main objective of this project is to understand the environmental factors that influence the spread of Anopheles stephensi, and potential to increase the local risk of malaria transmission. The project examines the role of humans and animals in malaria transmission, and adopts an interdisciplinary approach, encompassing entomology, epidemiology, transmission modelling, vector control and policy development.The project will be undertaken in close collaboration with the World WHO Initiative to stop the spread of Anopheles stephensi in Africa, and WHO/Roll Back Malaria Vector Control Working Group Taskforce on An stephensi to ensure research findings feed into policy recommendations.

Supervised by Professor Sian Clarke at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Co supervised by Professor Jonathan Lines (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and Dr Mojca Kristan (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). External Partner is the World Health Organisation. 





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Using genomics to understand animal, human and environmental transmission of diarrheagenic Escherichia coli pathovars in Bangladesh

Diarrhoea is the second leading cause of mortality among children <5 years age globally. Notably, in developing countries like Bangladesh, diarrheagenic pathovars of E. coli are highly prevalent. These E. coli pathovars include Enterotoxigenic, Enteropathogenic, and Enterohemorrhagic strains, which typically harbour various virulence genes in their plasmids or as mobile genetic elements. The emergence of novel virulence factors like colonisation, toxins, effector molecules, and antimicrobial, can make infection control difficult. These factors can be characterised through genome sequencing. This multidisciplinary project will deploy cutting-edge sequencing and pathogen genomics across patients, their household contacts, animals, and linked environmental settings to reveal the dynamics of transmission and virulence of underlying E. coli pathovars.

Supervised by Professor Taane Clark at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Co-supervised by Professor Susana Campino (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and Professor John McGrath (Queen’s University Belfast). External partner is icddr,b. 




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Vectors on heat islands: Assessing urbanisation and microclimatic effects on mosquito-borne disease risks

Mosquito-borne diseases increasingly threaten human lives, healthcare, and biodiversity. Nuisance biting is also highly problematic and impedes public and social welfare. A nexus of globalising trade and transport, environmental changes, and burgeoning human populations are causing mosquito proliferations, biological invasions, and altered zoonotic disease risk. This project brings together a multidisciplinary group of scientists and stakeholders comprising ecologists, virologists,  parasitologists, and medical anthropologists to understand the risks and opportunities around mosquito-borne disease under a OneHealth framework.

Supervised by Dr Ross Cuthbert at Queen’s University Belfast. Co-supervised by Professor Mary Cameron (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), Professor Susana Campino (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), Dr Connor Bamford (Queens University Belfast), Dr Lynne Lohfeld (Queen’s University Belfast) and Professor Eric Morgan (Queen’s University Belfast). External Partner is Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).




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Revolutionising Epidemic Prediction: Novel Integration of Satellite Imagery and Social Science for Anticipating Zoonotic Spillover Events in the Era of Anthropogenic Change

Understanding mechanisms underlying spillover are essential for epidemic preparedness. Habitat changes like deforestation may create zoonotic outbreaks by altering the types and intensity of human-animal interactions. Initially we will carry out a global scale review of the most important zoonotic infections, examining the role that habitat changes play in their occurrence. From this broad approach we will focus on candidate diseases (see example ecological concept below for proof-of-concept case study) and use high-resolution satellite data, advanced image processing and machine learning algorithms to identify zoonotic disease occurrence that is associated with alterations in natural habitats and/or land use change. Case studies will be developed to understand how the changing human-animal interface alters exposure risk in humans via elite interviews with key actors involved in environmental management and health governance.

Supervised by Dr Oktay Karakus in Cardiff University. Co-supervised by Dr Sarah Perkins (Cardiff University), Dr Jesse Heley (Aberystwyth University) and Dr Joanne Lello (Cardiff University). External partner is the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

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Revolutionising Tuberculosis Diagnostics: A Graphene Oxide-Based Biosensor for Enhanced Sensitivity and Selectivity in Cord Factor Detection

The global burden of Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) remains a significant public and animal health challenge whereby innovative techniques for early identification and successful management are required. Next generation biosensor technology allows for SMART detection systems. The project aims to develop a novel rapid point of care (POC) nanosensor based on the combination of detection BTB secretory proteins as TB biomarkers with graphene oxide and nanotechnological tools in tandem with next generation biosensor technology, to facilitate the early detection and treatment of disease. The aim would be to offer a device suitable for use by farmers and vets in the field to be able to monitor animals but also environmental samples for source testing. Simple Measurable Accurate Real Time (SMART) nanosensor devices could be used for earlier detection and the prevention of the disease spreading through the herd.

Supervised by Professor Katrina Campbell. Co-supervised by Dr Amanda Gibson (Aberystwyth University), Professor Irene Grant (Queen's University Belfast) and Dr Richard Gault (Queen's University Belfast). External partner is Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

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