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Investigating the infective reservoir of soil transmitted helminths in rural villages in Madagascar (GCRF)

Project Description

The soil transmitted helminth Trichuris trichiura affects ~500 million people in low to middle income countries, resulting in disability and poor child development, trapping people in a cycle of poverty. Trichuris is a gut dwelling parasite transmitted by a faeco-oral route: unembryonated eggs are passed with faeces and embryonate in the environment to become infective. This is thought to take approximately 30 days, although very little is known about the impact of the local environment on this process. Embryonated eggs contain L1 larvae and remain infective in the soil for years. Current anthelmintic treatments show low cure rates for trichuriasis. The development of drug resistance is also a pressing issue and no vaccine exists. Furthermore, environmental contamination with parasite eggs drives high reinfection rates post drug treatment. There is therefore an urgent need globally to interrupt the soil transmitted helminth lifecycle; failure to do so allows endemic infections to persist.

This proposal is in collaboration with the Centre Val Bio (CVB), an established field station in rural Madagascar staffed primarily by Malagasy nationals and with established links with the local Malagasy community. The prevalence of trichuriasis in this area is reported to be over 70%. Availability of anthelmintic drugs to the mainly rural Malagasy communities relies on patchy infrastructure. Reinfection rates are rapid, often within three months of treatment, likely due to significant environmental contamination with parasite eggs. However, the precise prevalence of helminth eggs in the environment remains unexplored. This project will develop a scalable molecular assay to enumerate multiple helminth species in soil samples, providing important information on the environmental reservoir of STHs. It will also investigate the role of the rainforest environment in persistence of these parasites. Most importantly, the project will continue to build vital links with local village elders and allow the transfer of skills to the field station present in the endemic region.

Entry Requirements
Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) an Upper Second class Honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area / subject.

If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - choose PhD Infectious Diseases. Full details on how to apply can be found on the GCRF website

Funding Notes

The GCRF PhD studentship programme is a 4 year programme with integrated teaching certificate. There are up to 12 studentships available. Applicants can apply to one project which will start in either April or September 2020.

Funding for the programme will include tuition fees, an annual stipend at the minimum Research Councils UK rate (around £15,000 for 2019/20), a research training grant, training allowance and travel allowance.

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

Related Subjects

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