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  Developing in vitro techniques to investigate host-parasite interactions in shrimps

   School of Biosciences

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  Dr A Tsaousis, Dr J Korzelius  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

In the heart of Asia's thriving shrimp industry lies a silent threat that undermines both economic vitality and food security: devastating diseases caused by viruses and other microbial pathogens, notably gregarine apicomplexans. These peculiar “parasites”, capable of fluctuating from mutualism to parasitism, potentially pose significant risks to shrimp populations worldwide. Gregarine resilience and the current inability to culture them outside their natural hosts present a challenge to marine biologists, parasitologists and pathologists alike.


We're seeking a passionate, driven individual who's eager to make a significant impact on global food systems and marine health. Experience or interest in either cell culturing, bioinformatics and/or field work will be important. This project will not only contribute to the essential field of marine pathology but also pave the way for sustainable practices that can be adopted by shrimp farmers worldwide. You will need a minimum of 2:1 degree and/or a postgraduate degree in a relevant subject, as well as a willingness to work at the interface of wet-lab and fieldwork, demonstrating enthusiasm to learn new skills. Informal enquiries can be addressed to Dr Anastasios Tsaousis: [Email Address Removed]

In collaboration with Skretting in Norway and Prof Dr Sonja Rueckert (University of Duisburg-Essen) we have a fully funded PhD studentship that will be based at the School of Biosciences at the University of Kent and is led by Dr Anastasios Tsaousis.

Project vision

This cutting-edge PhD project aims to leap beyond the current scientific boundaries of shrimp health, developing the first long-term invertebrate cell culture from shrimp intestinal tissues. This innovation will serve as a beacon for drug discovery, offering a novel in vitro and in vivo platform to combat intracellular pathogens (including protists), devastating for shrimp farms globally.

Project’s mission

- Pioneer Development: Develop shrimps intestinal cell cultures, a feat yet unachieved, to unlock research on host-parasites interactions.

- Innovate and Observe: Utilise state-of-the-art cell biology and omics techniques to track gregarine reproduction/growth and interactions within these novel cell cultures, under methodically controlled conditions.

- Discover and Protect: Lead the charge in identifying and testing potential drug compounds, setting the stage for innovations that will protect shrimp populations, ensure food security, and sustain the industry's future.

Join us

Join our team on this important journey to develop innovative in vitro culturing techniques, aimed at understanding and enhancing shrimp health and disease resistance. Within this project, we can contribute to more sustainable and efficient shrimp farming, directly impacting the aquaculture industry.

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

This is funded by the University of Kent and Skretting for 3 years. The stipend paid equals the full UK Research Council rate of £19,237 (rate for 2024/25) plus tuition fees at the postgraduate home rate (£4,786 for 2024/25). International applicants should make provision to meet the difference between Home and International fees.


Cleary & Durbin (2016) Unexpected prevalence of parasite 18S rDNA sequences in winter among Antarctic marine protists. J. Plankton Res., 38(3):401-417
De Vargas et al. (2015) Ocean plankton. Eukaryotic plankton diversity in the sunlit ocean. Science, 348: 1261605
Janouškovec et al. (2019) Apicomplexan-like parasites are polyphyletic and widely but selectively dependent on cryptic plastid organelles. eLife, 8: e49662
Lentendu et al. (2018) Consistent patterns of high alpha and low beta diversity in tropical parasitic and free-living protists. Mol. Ecol., 27(13): 2846-2857
Rueckert & Horák (2017) Archigregarines of the English Channel revisited: new molecular data on Selenidium species including early described and new species and the uncertainties of phylogenetic relationships. PLoS One, 12: e0187430
Rueckert S, Betts EL, Tsaousis AD. The Symbiotic Spectrum: Where Do the Gregarines Fit? Trends Parasitol. 2019 Sep;35(9):687-694.

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