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Establishing the epidemiology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex infection in elephants, livestock and people in Nepal, to improve conservation and public health outcomes   


College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

, Dr M Bronsvoort , Sunday, January 10, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) bacteria are responsible for tuberculosis (TB) in people and many species of domestic and wild animal. It is a leading cause of death in people worldwide and infection often persists in complex, multi-species reservoir systems. Limitations in epidemiological understanding hampers conservation and public health efforts, and whole genome sequencing offers many opportunities to advance our knowledge (1).

In Nepal, captive elephants are used extensively in wildlife management and tourism activities. They have been shown to be susceptible to fatal infections with TB and disease transmission to handlers presents a public health risk. The buffer area around Chitwan National Park has relatively high densities of human and domestic animal populations, but our understanding of the epidemiology of TB in this system is poor. It is therefore imperative that we a) secure the health and sustainability of the elephant population, and b) minimise TB transmission between elephants, people, livestock and other wildlife (2). Improved antemortem tuberculosis testing in wild animals from multiple taxonomic groups would also facilitate the development of more effective disease risk management strategies for conservation programmes and zoo populations (3).

The objectives of this study are:
1. Development and validation of a novel long read sequencing approach for MTBC surveillance using nanowire and MinION platforms and faecal samples
2. Application of this approach alongside other diagnostic tests to characterise the epidemiology of MTBC in elephants, people and livestock in Chitwan, Nepal
3. Translation of this knowledge into practical disease risk management strategies to reduce MTBC transmission across the human-wildlife-livestock interface in Chitwan NP and in conservation programmes

This PhD project will be undertaken in collaboration with the National Trust for Nature Conservation, Nepal and the Zoological Society of London. It has the potential to benefit elephant conservation, human health and domestic animal health.

Funding Notes

3.5 year PhD

This opportunity is open to UK and international students and provides funding to cover stipend, tuition fees and consumable/travel costs. Applications including a statement of interest and full CV with names and addresses (including email addresses) of two academic referees, should be emailed to .

When applying for the studentship please state clearly the project title/s and the supervisor/s in your covering letter.

Other projects available:
We would encourage applicants to list up to three projects of interest (ranked 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice) from those listed with a closing date of 10th January 2021 at View Website

References

1. Cole ST, Brosch R, Parkhill J, Garnier T, Churcher C, Harris D, et al. (1998) Deciphering the biology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from the complete genome sequence. Nature 393:537–44. 10.1038/31159

2. Mikota SK, Gairhe K, Giri K, Hamilton K, Miller M, Paudel S, et al. (2015) Tuberculosis surveillance of elephants (Elephas maximus) in Nepal at the captive-wild interface. European Journal of Wildlife Research 61:221–229. 10.1007/s10344-014-0890-4

3. Molenaar FM, Burr PD, Swift BMC, Rees CED, Masters N (2020) Conservation challenges: the limitations of antemortem tuberculosis testing in captive Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica). Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 51(2), 426-432. https://doi.org/10.1638/2019-0084

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