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Comparative functional genomics of trichomonads infecting animals and humans: new insights into their zoonotic capacity and diverse mucosal life styles

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  • Full or part time
    Prof R Hirt
    Dr A Jackson
    Dr D Bolam
    Dr E Lowe
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This project represents a unique opportunity to gain multidisciplinary skills integrating ‘omics (comparative and evolutionary genomics and transcriptomics) with functional characterisations (biochemistry, enzymology) of candidate colonisation/virulence factors of important Trichomonads symbionts with worldwide distribution among human, pet animals, bovine and avian populations. It is increasingly recognised that successful control of zoonotic pathogens requires joint veterinary and medical efforts; hence Trichomonads species are an important emerging priority and model system to study pathogens with zoonotic origins with economically important impacts on human (increase morbidity across broad age groups but aging population in particular – e.g. periodontitis, urogenital and digestive complications among the elderly) and animal health (food production). The multidisciplinary nature of the project will ensure that the PhD candidate is expose to a combination of important topical and transferable research skills to study host-microbe interactions. These skills with be gained in the context of four highly active research laboratories with strong complementary and overlapping research interests active in the studies on human-bacteria-fungi-parasites interactions at mucosal surfaces exploiting large ‘omics datasets leading to targeted functional investigations that aim at eventually developing new prophylactic and therapeutic strategies to avoid and combat pathogens through optimising mucosal homeostasis, a central factor, and with wide-ranging impact, in human and animal health.

Applications should be made by emailing [Email Address Removed] with a CV (including contact details of at least two academic (or other relevant) referees), and a covering letter – clearly stating your first choice project, and optionally 2nd and 3rd ranked projects, as well as including whatever additional information you feel is pertinent to your application; you may wish to indicate, for example, why you are particularly interested in the selected project(s) and at the selected University. Applications not meeting these criteria will be rejected.
In addition to the CV and covering letter, please email a completed copy of the Additional Details Form (Word document) to [Email Address Removed]. A blank copy of this form can be found at: https://www.nld-dtp.org.uk/how-apply.
Informal enquiries may be made to [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year BBSRC studentship under the Newcastle-Liverpool-Durham DTP. The successful applicant will receive research costs, tuition fees and stipend (£15,009 for 2019-20). The PhD will start in October 2020. Applicants should have, or be expecting to receive, a 2.1 Hons degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. EU candidates must have been resident in the UK for 3 years in order to receive full support. Please note, there are 2 stages to the application process.


Carlton JM, Hirt RP, et al. (2007). Draft genome sequence of the sexually-transmitted pathogen Trichomonas vaginalis. Science, 315: 207-212.

Sonnenburg ED, Zheng H, Joglekar P, Higginbottom SK, Firbank SJ, Bolam DN, Sonnenburg JL.(2010). Specificity of polysaccharide use in intestinal bacteroides species determines diet-induced microbiota alterations. Cell, 141: 1241-1252.

Alsmark C, Foster PG, Sicheritz-Ponten T, Nakjang S, Martin Embley T, Hirt RP (2013). Patterns of prokaryotic lateral gene transfers affecting parasitic microbial eukaryotes. Genome Biology, 14: R19.

Maritz JM, Land KM, Carlton JM, Hirt RP (2014). What is the importance of zoonotic Trichomonads for human health? Trends in Parasitology, 30: 333-341.

Cuskin F, Lowe EC et al. (2015). Human gut Bacteroidetes can utilize yeast mannan through a selfish mechanism. Nature, 517: 165-169.

Jackson AP et al. (2016). Kinetoplastid phylogenomics reveals the evolutionary innovations associated with the origins of parasitism. Current Biology, 26: 1-12.

Temple MJ, Cuskin F, Baslé A, Hickey N, Speciale G, Williams SJ, Gilbert HJ, Lowe EC (2017). A Bacteroidetes locus dedicated to fungal 1,6-ß-glucan degradation: Unique substrate conformation drives specificity of the key endo-1,6-ß-glucanase. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 292: 10639–10650.

Pinheiro J, Biboy J, Vollmer W, Hirt RP, et al. (2018). The protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis targets bacteria with laterally-acquired NlpC/P60 peptidoglycan hydrolases. mBio, 9: e01784-18.

Silva Pereira S, Casas-Sánchez A, Haines LR, Ogugo M, Absolomon K, Sanders M, Kemp S, Acosta-Serrano Á, Noyes H, Berriman M, Jackson AP (2018). Variant antigen repertoires in Trypanosoma congolense populations and experimental infections can be determined from deep sequence data with a set of universal protein motifs. Genome Research, 28:1383-1394.

Handrich MR, Garg SG, Sommerville EW, Hirt RP, Gould SB (2019). Characterization of the BspA and Pmp protein family of trichomonads. Parasites and Vectors, 12:406.

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