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Immune Responses to Salivary Biomarkers as Tools to Understand the Epidemiology of Vector Borne Diseases

  • Full or part time
    Dr J Sternberg
    Dr A Bowman
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Haematophagous (blood-feeding) arthropods may act as vectors for serious parasitic diseases to humans and livestock. Examples include ticks (Lyme diseases, tick-borne encephalitis, theileriosis), Hemipteran Bugs (Chagas disease), Tsetse Flies (African trypanosomiasis), Mosquitoes (malaria, filariasis, dengue etc). These blood feeders inject a complex set of substances in their saliva to facilitate feeding. We have previously shown that immune response of the host to some of these substances may be used as an indicator of whether and how often blood-feeding is taking place (1,2,3). This information allows vector control programmes to target at-risk localities and communities.

In this project, you will combine immunological and molecular approaches to study the hosts immune response to blood-feeding by the sheep tick (Ixodes ricinus) and explore the epidemiology of tick challenge in humans and wildlife. This may involve field-work in Scotland as well as samples provided by collaborators elsewhere in Europe. Potential diagnostic antigens will be identified using screens of salivary gland proteins from ticks and using in silico epitope prediction methods in available bioinformatic databases of tick salivary antigens. The project will offer the opportunity to develop skill sets in molecular biology and immunology as well as field biology and epidemiology.

Funding Notes

This PhD studentship is only open to sponsored students and those who have their own funding. Supervisors will not be able to respond to requests to source funding.

To submit an application please visit View Website
-State the name of the lead supervisor on your application
-State the name of the project when asked for a studentship title

Please note that we will not proceed with applications that have not stated their funding source.


1.Schwarz, A, Medrano-Mercado, N, Billingsley, PF, Schaub, GA, Sternberg, JM 2010 IgM-antibody responses of chickens to salivary antigens of Triatoma infestans as early biomarkers for low-level infestation of triatomines. Int. J Parasitol 40(11) :1295-1302

2.Schwarz, A, Helling, S, Collin, N., Teixeira, C.A., Medrano-Mercado, N., Hume, J.C.C., Assumpcao, T.C., Marcus, K., Meyer, H.E., Ribeiro, J.M.C., Valenzuela, J.G., Billingsley, P.F., Sternberg, J.M. and Schaub, G.A. 2009. Immunogenic salivary proteins of Triatoma infestans: Development of a recombinant antigen for the detection of low-level infestation of triatomines. PLoS Negl.Trop.Dis. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 3(10): e532.

3.Caljon, G., K. Broos, I. De Goeyse, K. De Ridder, J. M. Sternberg, M. Coosemans, P. De Baetselier, Y. Guisez, and J. V. Den Abbeele. 2009. Identification of a functional Antigen5-related allergen in the saliva of a blood feeding insect, the tsetse fly. Insect Biochem Mol Biol 39:332-341.

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