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  OneZoo Centre for Doctoral Training Scholarships, Project 5: Understanding the distribution and spread of Anopheles stephensi, a new and invasive malaria vector in Africa


   OneZoo CDT

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  Prof Sian Clarke  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The OneZoo CDT offers an unprecedented level of diversity and transdisciplinarity, with award-winning educators and experts in zoonotic diseases and environmental sciences, from Cardiff University, Aberystwyth University, Queen’s University Belfast, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, working collectively, fostering creation of the OneZoo research community, and empowering students to develop their own training to acquire strong employability skills.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) has been awarded funding as part of the OneZoo CDT to support studentships over the next three years, with planned cohort intakes in the 2024-25 and 2025-26 academic years, with up to six studentships.

Background

The main objective of this project is to understand the environmental factors that influence the spread of Anopheles stephensi, and the potential to increase the local risk of malaria transmission. The project examines the role of humans and animals in malaria transmission and adopts an interdisciplinary approach, encompassing entomology, epidemiology, transmission modelling, vector control and policy development. The project will be undertaken in close collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) Initiative to stop the spread of Anopheles stephensi in Africa, and the WHO/Roll Back Malaria Vector Control Working Group Taskforce on An stephensi to ensure research findings feed into policy recommendations.   

The project

The project will start by reviewing the known biology and bionomics of An stephensi, in comparison with existing key vectors in Africa such as An arabiensis and An gambiae – to understand the parameters affecting the distribution of each vector and their role in malaria transmission. Given the ready proclivity of An stephensi to feed on animals, particular attention will be given to differences between vectors in degree of anthropophily (tendency to feed on humans vs other animals), infection rates, and contribution to overall disease transmission risk.    

The second stage will include fieldwork to characterise the larval ecology and investigate host feeding preferences of An stephensi in one country, potentially Cameroon, Ghana, or Tanzania (country to be confirmed). The location will be dependent on the results of ongoing vector surveillance to detect the presence of An stephensi in these countries. This phase of the work also includes the opportunity to utilise a new e-DNA based sampling method (developed by one of the supervisors, MK) to investigate the distribution, breeding habitat and ecology of this new disease vector; and to help adapt this sampling approach for use in routine vector surveillance.  

Data collected in phases 1 and 2 will be used to parameterise a disease transmission model (third phase of the project) to assess how variation in the relative density of humans and alternative hosts, such as cattle and other animals, across Africa could modify disease risk according to different degrees of anthropophily. This phase could include an attachment to ILRI, to gather data and understand trends in livestock farming and animal husbandry practices, with a view to modelling how these might affect future vector distribution and transmission risk. Given the paucity of published data on An stephensi bionomics in Africa, as well as to assess risk in countries where An stephensi has not yet been detected, this analysis will also be performed for An arabiensis (another malaria vector without a strong preference for human blood meals, and for which there is more existing data from Africa).

Aim and objectives

The aim of these models is to estimate the impact of the introduction and establishment of An stephensi on malaria burden across a range of geographies – illustrative of variations in disease risk at a local-scale scale within countries, as well as larger-scale variation between countries, taking account of human density, livestock density, human-blood-index (HBI of the vector), and probability of human-vector contact.  

Overall, this project has the potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the consequences of the recent invasion of Africa by An stephensi and help us prepare by anticipating where and how to apply appropriate control measures.

Where will the project be based?

The student will be based in the UK, with opportunity to travel to one or more countries in Africa.

Supervisors:

  1. Principal Supervisor: Professor Sian Clarke (LSHTM) [Email Address Removed]
  2. Co-Supervisor: Professor Jonathan Lines (LSHTM) [Email Address Removed]
  3. Co-Supervisor: Dr Mojca Kristan (LSHTM) [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes:

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) has been awarded funding as part of the OneZoo CDT to support studentships over the next three years, with planned cohort intakes in the 2024-25 and 2025-26 academic years, with up to six studentships.

The studentship will provide:

  • Tuition fees (at the LSHTM Home fee rate), and
  • A student stipend (at the UKRI studentship rate, which was GBP 20,622.00 per annum in 2023-24), and
  • A Research Training and Support Grant to go towards consumables and training for the duration of the award.

Applicants must meet minimum LSHTM entry requirements. Please see the specific project details above for any further requirements.

Some projects may be suitable for part-time study; anyone wishing to undertake part-time study is encouraged to contact the supervisor for more details.

This studentship is open to applicants assessed as both ‘Home’ and ‘Overseas’ fee status. For further information about Fee Status Assessments please see the School’s Admissions policies.

Successful applicants who are nationals of low income countries and lower middle income countries (LLMICs) may be eligible for an LSHTM bursary to cover the fee top up costs. LLMIC applicants who are short-listed for interview, will be contacted by the LSHTM Scholarships Team at that time to provide further details of the LSHTM bursary scheme as per our UKRI international recruitment statement

Successful international applicants who are not from an LLMIC will be required to cover the tuition fee top up costs from other sources (e.g. other scholarship or bursary awards). Awardees may not use their studentship stipend to top up fees.

Enquiries email name and address:

For further information regarding this research project, please contact Professor Sian Clarke ([Email Address Removed]).

Any general queries regarding research degrees at the London School of Hygiene and tropical medicine, please email [Email Address Removed]

Biological Sciences (4)

 About the Project