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QUADRAT DTP: Do nutrition-parasite interactions drive One Health under climate change?


School of Biological Sciences

About the Project

Parasites are important drivers of individual fitness and population dynamics in animals, and their effects are strongly influenced by biotic and abiotic interactions under climate change. Nutrition affects the level and consequences of parasite infection in free-ranging ungulate grazing systems, and also depends on climate. This project will examine the extent to which nutrition-parasite interactions determine parasite abundance, host health, and risks of co-infection with other pathogens. Actions of climate change through this prism could have implications for the emergence and spill-over of diseases, including to livestock and humans.

The project will capitalise on previous work in the host laboratories on climate and helminth transmission, impacts on ungulate hosts, and methods for quantifying co-infection interactions in natural systems. A key starting point is the observation that parasite effects on protein-energy metabolism can lead to periods during which pathogens are released from immune-mediated constraints. These are highly seasonal and magnified around birthing, hence asynchrony between nutrient availability and requirements could result in spikes of parasite infection and onward transmission, and increased susceptibility to co-infections. This hypothesis will be challenged against past observations of pathogen invasion in migratory ungulates under unusual weather conditions (e.g. saiga antelopes, caribou), using historical remote sensing data to reconstruct nutritional constraints. In parallel, the project will utilise opportunities for supplementary feeding and longitudinal monitoring of parasite burdens in semi-captive deer in Ireland to elucidate the effects of nutrient-parasite interactions on co-infections. This phase will also be used to develop methods for the non-invasive measurement of parasites, inflammation, and nutritional status using faecal biomarkers, which can be applied more widely in logistically difficult systems. Depending on initial results, these methods could then be applied alongside existing projects in Africa: first in free-grazing goats and then in antelope species in the highly seasonal rangelands of northern Botswana. In this system, varying degrees of asynchrony between rainfall, nutrition and parasite transmission provide opportunities to form creative hypothesis to be challenged by the new analytical methods.

The student selected for this project will benefit from specific training in field and laboratory methods for quantifying parasite and pathogen infection and nutrition; transmission modelling; remote sensing and geographical information systems; as well as transferable skills in experimental design, data analysis, and scientific communication. Supervisory guidance from experts in the disciplines of parasitology, infection dynamics and animal nutrition will provide a strong background in multidisciplinary investigation of ecological interactions under global change.

More project details are available here: https://www.quadrat.ac.uk/projects/do-nutrition-parasite-interactions-drive-one-health-under-climate-change/

How to apply: https://www.quadrat.ac.uk/how-to-apply/

Note that applications should NOT be submitted directly to Queen’s.

Funding Notes

QUADRAT studentships are open to UK and international candidates (EU and non-EU). Funding will cover UK tuition fees/stipend/research & training support grant only.

Before applying please check full funding and eligibility information: View Website

References

Cable J, Barber I, Boag B, Ellison A, Morgan ER, Murray K, Pascoe E, Sait SM, Wilson A, Booth M (2017) Global change, parasite transmission and disease control: lessons from ecology. Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society B 372,20160088.

Coop R and Kyriazakis I (1999) Nutrition-parasite interactions. Veterinary Parasitology 84, 187-204.

Shearer CL and Ezenwa VO (2020) Rainfall as a driver of seasonality in parasitism. International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife 12, 8-12.

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