Protozoan parasites are amongst the most pressing concerns on the global health agenda, for both humans and animals. A portfolio of new anti-parasitic drugs is required to tackle protozoan diseases because: (i) there is currently a lack of effective chemotherapeutics; (ii) available treatments exhibit toxicity and mutagenicity; and (iii) resistance to available drugs is evolving and becoming widespread.
Protozoal metabolism is a crucial target for anti-parasitic drugs, therefore understanding this is fundamental to the global health agenda. Parasite lipid metabolism is a potential drug target, both endogenous (de-novo synthesized) and host scavenged lipids. Therefore, the lipid exchange machinery operating at the host-pathogen interface represents a promising drug target. However, this remains elusive. The research project will apply cutting edge chemical parasitology and mass spectrometry-based ‘omics approaches to identify and characterise the proteins involved in this lipid exchange process. The focus will be on Toxoplasma and Sarcocystis, human and animal pathogens belonging to the Apicomplexa, a phylum including Plasmodium falciparum - the causative agent of severe malaria. While toxoplasmosis and sarcocystosis are usually asymptomatic in healthy individuals, they can cause significant problems in immunocompromised patients. Moreover, toxoplasmosis is implicated in several neurological and psychological disorders, spontaneous abortion and, in addition, damage to the optic nerve in new-borns. Currently there are no treatments for chronic toxoplasmosis.
This project will provide insight into the lipid exchange mechanism at the host-pathogen interface through comparative studies in Toxoplasma and Sarcocystis, yielding valuable information that will guide future efforts to identify new drug targets.
Applicants should use the links provided in each topic or project area to the Research Centres and Research Groups identified, or to the named supervisors for each project, to ensure that their application and proposal fits with the research interests and topics defined in the studentships offered.
The studentship will cover tuition fees and provide an annual tax-free stipend of £15,000 for three years, subject to satisfactory progress. Applications are welcome from strong UK, EU and International students.