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Queen’s DTP: The importance of microbes in early schistosomula parasite development

School of Biological Sciences

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Dr G Gobert , Dr C Cantacessi , Dr Gabriel Rinaldi No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Belfast United Kingdom Biochemistry Cell Biology Epidemiology Microbiology Molecular Biology Parasitology

About the Project

This project opportunity is offered as part of the Queen's Doctoral Training Programme - Multi-dimensional approaches to understanding microbe/host interactions in the context of disease, therapeutics and community resilience. For more information, please visit:

Helminth parasites cause significant chronic disease both in people and in animals of economic importance. Schistosome flukes are blood dwelling helminth parasites and major pathogens of humans, predominantly in tropical and sub-tropical countries. Causing chronic morbidity, schistosomes currently infect ~200 million individuals worldwide. Schistosome parasites require significant development within the intermediate freshwater snail host, before the emerging infected aquatic cercarial stage seeks a definitive mammalian (human) host. During this critical developmental period in the snail, critical biological functions are formed enabling adaption from one host to another host, via the freshwater environment. Development and reproduction occurring within the intermediate snail host and aquatic migration are both important (micro)-environments and contain bacteria and other microbes. These microbes may include bacterial, viral, fungal or eukaryotic organisms.

This project will explore how schistosomes interact with microbes present in these early development stages corresponding to dramatically varying microenvironments. These adaptions represent important biological priorities for the parasite, and as such represent targets for therapeutic interventions against the earliest phases associated with infection of the mammalian host. The proposed PhD project will characterise the biological interplay between important pathogen and microbials.

New insights into invertebrate developmental biology will be gained. Particularly interactions within the intermediate snail host and asexually producing parasites will be the focus. From this work new avenues for schistosome control may be identified, including targeting genes/proteins that maintain the balance between parasite and microbe.

Candidate requirements: The student should hold a 1st or 2.1 degree in a subject relevant to the biological sciences. Degree areas may include but are not limited to microbiology, molecular biology, and biochemistry. Interest in parasitology is preferred. The ability to demonstrate relevant laboratory experience will be considered beneficial to the application.

Start date: October 2021

Duration: 3.5 years

How to apply:

Applicants for this project must apply to the School of Biological Sciences PhD programme at Queen’s via

Funding Notes

There are a number of competition based studentships available, funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE). These opportunities are primarily available for UK applicants but there will be a small number of awards available for EU/international candidates.

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