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Examining the host-environmental interface of Histoplasma capsulatum to understand the implications of disease management within endemic populations.

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C Scantlebury
    Prof A J McCarthy
    Dr T Helgason
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

Histoplasmosis is an endemic disease with serious consequences to equine and human health. This dimorphic fungus favours nitrogen rich environments, and generates highly resistant spores. In sub-Saharan Africa, histoplasmosis is endemic within equine and human populations, where people live in close proximity to a range of wildlife and domestic species within their households. Despite this, we know very little about how endemnicity is maintained and how animal husbandry and environmental niches contribute to the prevalence of this disease within vulnerable populations. Transmission routes and the geographic and climatic limits of fungal survival are poorly understood.

In this project we seek to:

* Identify environmental niches of Histoplasma in households and within communal gathering points in endemic regions, namely Ethiopia and The Gambia

* Describe and compare the role Histoplasma plays within the environmental microbial community in households with, and without active clinical cases of equine Histoplasma

* Explore the community ecology in environments supportive of the maintenance of Histoplasma and identify potential routes of transmission (and opportunities for intervention).

These will be achieved through a combination of molecular and microbial community ecology and disease modelling methods to identify key niches of Histoplasma in households with and without active infections.

You will be a highly motivated ecologist or microbiologist with an interest in microbiomes and disease modeling. This study aligns with an existing project aimed at understanding the epidemiology and ecology of Histoplasma through 3 large scale population based field studies. This PhD would provide training in key molecular and ecological skills, provide grounding in research in International global health, and benefits from support through an international collaboration of scientists and veterinarians with expertise in clinical disease, epidemiology, and fungal environmental microbiomes. This project would suit a candidate with a Masters level qualification with experience in some of the proposed methodologies or potentially a high class Undergraduate degree in Biological or Molecular Biological Sciences or similar.

Funding Notes

Applicants are encouraged to contact the Principal Supervisor directly to discuss their application, options for funding and the project.

Assistance will be given to those who are applying to international funding schemes.

A fee bursary may be available for well qualified and motivated applicants.

Details of costs can be found on the University website:


Scantlebury, C.E., Pinchbeck, G.L., Loughnane, P., Aklilu, N., Ashine, T., Stringer, A.P., Gordon, L., Marshall, M., Christley, R.M., McCarthy, A. (2016) Development and evaluation of a molecular diagnostic method to rapidly detect Histoplasma capsulatum var. farciminosum, the causative agent of Epizootic Lymphangitis, in equine clinical samples. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 54 (12): 2990-2999.

Hibbett, D., Abarenkov, K., Kõljalg, U., Öpik, M., Chai, B., Cole, J., et al. (2017). Sequence-based classification and identification of Fungi. Mycologia.

Cotton TEA, Fitter AH, Dumbrell AJ, Miller, MR, Helgason T, (2015) Fungi in the future: inter-annual variation and effects of atmospheric change on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities. New Phytologist. 205:1598-1607 doi: 10.1111/nph.13224

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