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Determining the epidemiology and immune responses of UK cattle to natural challenge with Dictyocaulus viviparus

Project Description

Bovine parasitic bronchitis (BPB) is an infectious disease of grazing cattle caused by the nematode Dictyocaulus viviparus. Outbreaks of BPB are widely reported annually across the UK, with prevalence seemingly increasing as a consequence of changing weather patterns.

Impact of BPB infection can range from mild to severe disease and, not infrequently, death. In addition to being a major issue for animal health and welfare, BPB also has a profound economic impact, equating to an estimated £100-140 per case (£5.2m per annum nationally). Recent efforts to improve the efficiency of grass-based livestock production are, in part, focussed on a need to reduce the environmental impact of meat and dairy products. Clearly, improving the understanding of an increasingly prevalent disease of grazing cattle is an important part of achieving this objective, whilst simultaneously improving animal health, welfare and productivity.

Current evidence concerning the host immune response to D. viviparus infection is limited to experimental infections focussing on the development of vaccines. As a consequence, a number of important considerations are still unclear with respect to issues faced by cattle farmers when attempting to control BPB under normal farm conditions.

The aim of this project, conducted in collaboration with the National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS), is to further our knowledge of the epidemiological and immunological profile of BPB in UK cattle herds. This will include determining the UK prevalence of D. viviparus, which is currently unknown, in addition to evaluating the immune responses of cattle naturally exposed to D. viviparus. By doing this we aim to identify which aspects of the immune response to natural infection are important for protective immunity and disease progression. These investigations will be further corroborated with laboratory-based assessment of key immune mechanisms through in vivo immune cell cultures and larval killing assays, relating these back to their epidemiological effects.

Over the course of this project, the successful applicant will receive training in a range of practical skills associated with handling and sampling of cattle (including blood collection), diagnostic parasitology, immune assays, project management and data analysis. In addition, placement with our collaborative partners at NADIS present a unique opportunity to gain experience in delivering information and advice regarding parasitic diseases of livestock to farmers and other key industry stakeholders.

Applications should be made by emailing 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 . A blank copy of this form can be found at:

Informal enquiries may be made to

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year BBSRC CASE 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.


Related references

(2018). Dairy Heifers Naturally Exposed to Fasciola hepatica Develop a Type 2 Immune Response and Concomitant Suppression of Leukocyte Proliferation. INFECTION AND IMMUNITY, 86(1). doi:10.1128/IAI.00607-17

(2017) The Chronic Stages of Bovine Fasciola hepatica Are Dominated by CD4 T-Cell Exhaustion. Front Immunol. 8:1002. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.01002

(2016). Climate-driven changes to the spatio-temporal distribution of the parasitic nematode, Haemonchus contortus, in sheep in Europe. GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY, 22(3), 1271-1285. doi:10.1111/gcb.13132

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