Quantifying drivers of tick-borne diseases in livestock to inform management recommendations


   Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences

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  Dr Caroline Millins, Dr Nick Johnson, Dr B Purse  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Tick-borne diseases are emerging as a significant threat to livestock farming in the UK and are ranked in the top three priority diseases by farmers of extensive livestock. Although outbreaks of tick-borne disease can have severe impacts on farm animal production and welfare, there is limited knowledge on factors determining the distribution of these diseases and how farmers can best tailor management to reduce risks. Government policies to increase woodland area and environmental land management schemes are highly likely to change the risk from tick-borne diseases making this research extremely important and timely. 

This project will take a multi-disciplinary approach combining field ecology, epidemiological modelling and participatory methods to improve our understanding of the factors underpinning the epidemiology of livestock tick-borne diseases in the UK. To ensure that the research is targeted to the needs of farmers, stakeholder framing, and focus groups will be integrated to understand farmer priorities. This will inform recommendations for management which develop from the research.

The student will have the opportunity to analyse the match between livestock tick-borne disease patterns over the last decade with patterns in tick activity and distribution using existing datasets. They will collect additional epidemiological data from farms to augment the active tick-borne disease surveillance programmes which started in 2021. Using these data, they will be supported to develop spatial mixed models of the factors driving tick-borne pathogens at the landscape scale. This knowledge will be used to inform management recommendations and further studies.

The student will also gain experience in field ecology and methods to study tick distribution. They will co-develop a field study with the supervisory team to assess drivers of tick density and distribution in farmland habitats and how tick-borne disease risk may change in future. Ticks collected during field studies will be tested for pathogens in collaboration with project partner APHA. The study will provide evidence on drivers of tick density and infection risk from key pathogens in farmland habitats, and how these risks may change with land management policies.

Applications: please send a CV, 2 referees, and a personal statement to [Email Address Removed]

For further information contact the project supervisor, Dr Caroline Millins ([Email Address Removed]). Interviews will be held on September 5th 2022.


Funding Notes

This is a joint funded PhD studentship between the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of Liverpool and the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

References

1. Mitchell S. Surveillance for disease in extensively managed livestock. Vet Rec. 2019;185(22):686–7.
2. Johnson N, Phipps P, McFadzean H, Barlow A. An outbreak of bovine babesiosis in February, 2019, triggered by above average winter temperatures in southern England and co-infection with Babesia divergens and Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Parasites and Vectors. 2020;13(1):1–5.
3. Folly AJ, Dorey-Robinson D, Hernández-Triana LM, Phipps LP, Johnson N. Emerging Threats to Animals in the United Kingdom by Arthropod-Borne Diseases. Front Vet Sci. 2020;7(February):1–19.
4. Millins C, Gilbert L, Medlock J, Hansford K, Thompson DB, Biek R. Effects of conservation management of landscapes and vertebrate communities on Lyme borreliosis risk in the United Kingdom. Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci. 2017 Jun 5;372(1722):20160123.
5. Purse B V., Darshan N, Kasabi GS, Gerard F, Samrat A, et al. Predicting disease risk areas through co-production of spatial models: The example of Kyasanur forest disease in india’s forest landscapes. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2020;14(4):1–20.
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