Roslin Foundation Studentship – Understanding host-pathogen interactions to develop improved vaccines against East Coast Fever


   College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

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  Dr T Connelly, Dr L Morrison, Dr Pieter Steketee, Dr Anna Lacasta  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Theileria parva is a tick-borne parasite of cattle that causes East Coast Fever (ECF), a disease of high morbidity resulting in substantial economic losses for farmers in large areas of eastern and southern Africa. T. parva has a complex lifecycle and the development of vaccines against this parasite remains challenging. One potential target for vaccines is the sporozoite life-stage which is injected into cattle by infected ticks and then infects host lynphocytes before transitioning to the schizont phase of the lifecycle (it is this latter life-stage that causes the pathology and clinical symptoms that is associated with T. parva infection).

Only one molecule expressed by sporozoites (p67) has been studied as a candidate for vaccine development, and whilst showing some efficacy, p67-vaccines have shown only partial protection. The identification of additional host-pathogen interactions could reveal other candidate sporozoite antigens that could be used to complement p67. However, our understanding of host-pathogen interactions between T. parva sporozoites and cattle lymphocytes that could identify such antigens remains rudimentary. Although some recent work has identified a couple of potential vaccine antigens [1], the last significant work studying the host molecules required for sporozoite invasion are from the 1990s [2,3] identifying MHCI molecules as essential for sporozoite binding. However, MHCI is expressed on all nucelated cells and so can’t be the receptor determining the restricted tropism of sporozoites, indicating other interactions must be requisite for pathogen binding to host cells.

This project will use a suite of technologies to study the interactions of T. parva sporozoite with cattle lymphocytes, and hopefully identify (and validate) new candidate vaccine antigens. The project will use a range of bioinformatics, in vitro and molecular technologies, providing the successful candidate with a broad range of experience and training in biological experimental approaches.

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

This 4 year studentship opportunity is open to UK and international students and provides funding to cover enhanced stipend, tuition fees and enhanced consumable and travel costs.
Application form can be downloaded via https://www.ed.ac.uk/sites/default/files/atoms/files/rdsvs_gaffs_roslin_foundation_studentship_application_form_2024-25.doc
Applications should be emailed to [Email Address Removed]
If you are applying for more than one studentship please submit a separate application with a closing date of noon on 8th January 2024 at https://www.ed.ac.uk/roslin/work-study/opportunities/studentships

References

[1] Nyagmwange et al 2018 – Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology 199: 8-14
[2] Shaw et al 1991 – The Journal of Cell Biology 113:87-101
[3] Shaw et al 1995 – Journal of Cell Science 108:1587-1596

Where will I study?