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Elucidating the role of the gastrointestinal microbiome and metabolome in the host immune response to liver fluke infection

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  • Full or part time
    Dr LE Peachey
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description


Widespread drug resistance threatens the future control of parasite infections in food producing animals, which in turn, constitutes a serious threat to global food security. Liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica), is a highly pathogenic trematode parasite infecting cattle, sheep and goats in the UK, to which widespread drug resistance has been reported. As a result, current research is focusing on the identification of novel integrated strategies to improve control of these infections. One key approach is the identification of host factors which impact upon the host animal’s immune response to infection; in particular, gut commensal bacteria have been identified as playing an important role in regulating such responses. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that helminth infections cause alterations to the host’s GI microbiota and metabolism which impact significantly on the immunopathology of infection. However, to date, there have been no studies exploring the role of the commensal microbiota in liver fluke infections.

In this studentship we will provide a detailed examination of the alterations to GI microbiota, GI metabolites and host immune responses caused by F. hepatica infection in sheep. A range of state-of-the-art sequencing (including microbial 16S rRNA sequencing), and metabolite detection techniques (including nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), gas/liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS/LC-MS)) will be employed by the student to profile host responses to infection. Following this, bioinformatics analyses and advanced biostatistical data integration techniques will be developed to identify associations between stages of liver fluke infection and alterations to the GI microbiota, metabolites and immune responses. The data resulting from this study will contribute significantly to our overall knowledge of host-parasite-microbiome interactions, and will form the basis of future studies aimed at improving our control of this economically important parasite.

The successful applicant will be based within Dr Peachey’s group at Bristol Vet School, and will benefit from a strong collaboration with Professor Jane Hodgkinson at the University of Liverpool, Professor Mick Bailey at Bristol Vet School and Professor Andrew Dowsey at Population Health Data Science UoB.

This studentship will start in September 2019.

How to apply:
Please make an online application for this project at Please select ‘Faculty of Health Sciences’ and then ‘Veterinary Science_(PhD)’ on the Programme Choice page. You will be prompted to enter details of the studentship in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form.
We will consider students who are self-funded or will apply for a scholarship scheme such as from the China Scholarship Council (, a Commonwealth Scholarship (, or those from other countries (see for a list). If you intend to apply for a scholarship please contact us as soon as possible so we can support that process.

Candidate requirements: The studentship would suit an applicant with a strong first degree or masters which has elements of both biology and a mathematical discipline (e.g. mathematics, statistics, computing).

Contacts: Dr Laura Peachey [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Funding: Self-funded, or supported by scholarship application such as to the China Scholarship Council (deadline 18th January 2019) or a Commonweath Scholarship (deadline 25th January 2019).

How good is research at University of Bristol in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.03

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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