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Meaningful microbiomes: Investigation of host-microbiome interactions in liver fluke infections

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  • Full or part time
    Prof M Bailey
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The problem: Drug resistance currently threatens the control of helminth parasite infections in food producing animals, constituting a serious threat to global food security. Liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica) is a highly pathogenic trematode parasite infecting cattle, sheep and goats, to which widespread drug resistance has been reported. As a result, research is focusing on the identification of novel strategies to improve control of these infections. One key approach is the identification of factors which impact upon the host’s immune response to infection; in particular, gut commensal bacteria have been identified as playing an important role in regulating such responses.

The approach: In this project the student will, for the first time, provide a detailed examination of the impact of F. hepatica infection on the gastrointestinal (GI) microbiota, metabolites and host immune responses in sheep. A range of state-of-the-art sequencing (microbial 16S rRNA amplicon and RNA seq), and metabolite detection techniques (nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, gas/liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry) 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 host-parasite-microbiome associations at different stages of F. hepatica infection. This study will contribute significantly to our knowledge of the role of the GI microbiome in immune responses to F. hepatica infection, and will form the basis of future studies aimed at improving our control of this economically important parasite.

The team: The successful applicant will be based within Professor Bailey’s group at Bristol Vet School (BVS), and will benefit from collaboration with Dr Laura Peachey (BVS), Dr Vicky Hunt (University of Bath) and Professor Andrew Dowsey (Population Health Data Science, University of Bristol), whom will provide expertise in microbiome analysis, transcriptomics and omics data integration, respectively.

This studentship will start in September 2020.

How to apply:
This studentship is part of the BBSRC SWBio Doctoral Training Partnership ( For UK and EU students satisfying the eligibility criteria (, please apply directly at For International students and others outside this eligibility criteria, we are keen to accept students onto the programme who are self-funded or will apply for a scholarship scheme such as the China Scholarship Council ( or those from other countries (see for a list). In the first instance, please contact us if you intend to follow this path.

Candidate requirements:
The studentship would suit an applicant with a strong first degree or masters which has elements of biology and/or a mathematical discipline (e.g. bioinformatics, systems biology, mathematical biology).
Please see
Standard University of Bristol eligibility rules apply. Please see

Contacts: Prof Mick Bailey [Email Address Removed] or Dr Laura Peachey [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Funding: For eligible students, funding is available for full UK/EU tuition fees as well as a Doctoral Stipend matching the UK Research Council rate (e.g. £15,009 for 2019/20, updated each year) for 4 years. An enhanced stipend is available for eligible students with a recognised veterinary degree qualification (£22,456 per annum). Research training costs are included, as are additional funds to support conferences and a 3-month industrial internship.

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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