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Bloomsbury PhD Studentship: Do infections (helminthic parasites or food-borne pathogens) cause childhood stunting? An interdisciplinary study to elucidate linkages between childhood stunting, maternal and infant infection and gut health


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Prof J Webster , Dr B Heasler , Dr James Rudge No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
London United Kingdom Data Analysis Epidemiology Genetics Food Sciences Mathematics Veterinary Sciences Parasitology Pathology Statistics

About the Project

Project Summary:

Stunting remains a critical public health problem among children under the age of five years in many low and middle income countries globally, yet the relative importance of which key factors are involved in its aetiology remain largely unknown. Infectious agents, particularly helminthic parasites, have been proposed as key factors, either directly or indirectly. A prime focus of the GCRF Action Against Stunting Hub, for which this studentship is associated, is to elucidate the mosaic and synergies between a wide range of potential component parts involved in the typology of stunting.  

The main aims (dependent in part on the preferences and skill sets of the successful applicant) of this thesis project is, with a focus on the parasites and pathogens of both mother and infant, to:  

  1. Systematically review the currently available literature on the linkages between infection (notably helminthic parasites and food-borne pathogens) on childhood stunting (physical and cognitive);
  2. Gather field data from mothers and infants in Senegal focusing on the targeted impact of urogenital (including hybridized) and intestinal schistosomiasis on child health and stunting, with complementary molecular typing in the laboratory;
  3. Analyse statistically the relationships between these variables and outcomes using data collected in the GCRF Action Against Stunting Hub primarily from Senegal, but with complementary data from Indonesia and India;
  4. Characterise a novel conceptualisation of stunting considering pathways between infectious agents, gut health, nutrition, and childhood stunting;
  5. Develop novel mathematical models aimed to predict the impact of potential interventions on stunting and health and/or the economic consequences thereof. 

This project offers an exciting opportunity to become part of a large interdisciplinary international project with world-class researchers working on stunting across four countries (UK, Senegal, Indonesia, India). Outputs have the potential to offer immediate relevance to stunting in low and middle income countries by generating new knowledge to help elucidate key pathways that lead to stunting and/or poor health in vulnerable populations. By having such knowledge, interventions can be targeted towards outcomes that have the biggest potential for impact. 



  • Must meet our standard PhD entry requirements;
  • There is flexibility for the student to focus/specialize in what areas are of the greatest interest to them. However, the main initIal focus of this PhD research is analytical and quantitative, i.e. we are looking for a person with good interdisciplinary thinking and a strong interest in data handling and analysis;
  • 1st class or 2:1 Undergraduate degree in a science subject, or clinical or veterinary medicine, or statistics/mathematics;
  • An interest in infectious diseases / public health.


  • MSc covering Epidemiology, infectious diseases, and/or modelling;
  • Experience in mathematical modelling;
  • Experience in collecting and isolating parasites for subsequent genetic analyses;
  • Experience of statistical analysis in an epidemiological context and the design of data collection forms/protocols;
  • Knowledge of stunting in relation to infections, health, and/or animal source food is an advantage;
  • Publications in appropriate peer-reviewed journals.

This is a 3 year fully-funded studentship, open to applicants eligible for "Home" fees. International applicants are welcome to apply but must be able to fund the difference between "Home" and "Overseas" tuition fees. 

Please note that EU/EEA and Swiss national students may no longer be eligible for the “Home” rate of tuition fees, dependent on personal circumstances (including immigration status and residence history in the UK) and UK government rules which are currently being developed. For up-to-date information on fees for EU/EEA and Swiss national students following brexit please see our fees and funding page.

The studentship will commence October 2021.

If you are interested in applying for this position, please follow the link below. Please use your personal statement to demonstrate previous skills or experience you have in using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, and why you are particularly interested in this programme.

How to Apply

For more information on the application process and English Language requirements see How to Apply.

Interviews will take place March 2021.

We welcome informal enquiries - these should be directed to the Lead Supervisor: [Email Address Removed]

Deadline: 07/02/2021

Funding Notes

This is a 3 year fully-funded studentship, open to Home applicants. International and EU students are welcome to apply but must be able to fund the difference between Home Fees and the international tuition fees.


1. Leger, E., et al., (2020) Prevalence and distribution of schistosomiasis in human, livestock and snail populations in northern Senegal: a One Health epidemiological study of a multi-host system. Lancet Planetary Health. 4 (8), E330-342.

2. Leroy, J., et al., (2019). What Does Stunting Really Mean? A Critical Review of the Evidence, Advances in Nutrition, 10 (2) 196-204

3. Osakauno, D.N.M. et al., (2018). Dynamics of paediatric urogenital schistosome infection, morbidity and treatment: a longitudinal study among preschool children in Zimbabwe. BMJ Global Health, 2, e000661

4. Nampiga, M. et al., (2012). Effects of maternal worm infections and anthelminthic treatment during pregnancy on infant motor and neurocognitive functioning. J Int. Neuropsych. Soc. 18, 1019-1030.

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