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PhD studentship in Viral Immunology: role of T and NK cells in dengue virus infection

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, September 30, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Project description:
We are offering a 3-year funded PhD position to study the role of human T and NK cell immunity during infection with dengue virus (DENV), a flavivirus that is transmitted by infected Aedes mosquitoes. DENV infections are increasing dramatically in tropical and sub-tropical countries, with a recent estimate of 390 million infections per year. There is currently no therapeutic available for dengue and the first dengue vaccine has demonstrated only partial protective efficacy, thus highlighting the need to define the immune correlates of protection for DENV. Infection with DENV causes a spectrum of clinical manifestations from asymptomatic infection or self-limiting febrile illness (dengue fever) to more severe disease characterized by plasma leakage and haemorrhagic manifestations (dengue haemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome). The reasons underlying progression to severe disease remain poorly defined but a number of risk factors have been identified and include secondary dengue infection, obesity and age. Obesity in particular has emerged as an important risk factor in South-East Asia, where the large burden of DENV infections occur, as the incidence of obesity is steadily increasing amongst the younger age groups.

Previous studies performed by our group in collaboration with Dr Sophie Yacoub’s group at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) show preliminary evidence of an association between severe disease and CD8+ T and NK cell signatures during dengue infection, suggesting a key role of these cells in both protection and dengue immunopathogenesis. The aim of the current study is to further explore the association between T and NK cell responses and differential dengue disease outcomes, as well as define the mechanisms underlying these associations in young dengue patients with standard BMI versus those that are overweight/obese and are at risk of developing severe dengue. This project will also investigate the impact on dengue disease of the modulation of T and NK cells in response to Metformin treatment, a novel candidate therapeutic for dengue virus. These studies will inform the design of effective vaccines for DENV as well as the evaluation of novel therapeutics.

This PhD position offers the exciting opportunity to train at the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Bristol as well as perform some overseas research training at the Emerging Infectious Diseases Department, Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, amongst international experts of DENV and flavivirus biology. Our group utilizes a range of methodologies including cell culture, flow cytometry, ELISPOT, RNAseq and CyTOF. This position may also offer opportunities to travel to Vietnam and interact with scientists based at our clinical study site at OUCRU, Ho Chi Minh City.

Start date and duration: December 2019 for 3 years

How to apply: Applications should be directed to Dr Laura Rivino (). Please include in your application:
- Covering letter stating your interest in the position
- Detailed CV including the names and addresses of two referees
- Copies of your university degree certificate with transcripts
- Evidence of your proficiency in the English language, if applicable.

Funding Notes

The position is fully funded for 3 years by the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine in line with the standard PhD studentship amount (approximately 19K/year to cover stipend and fees).

Candidate requirements: An upper second or 1st class honors degree in Biomedicine, Immunology, Virology or a related area, with some wet lab research experience. A further qualification such as MSc is advantageous, but not essential. Enthusiasm, passion for research and availability to travel overseas.

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