Parasites infect one third of the human population, causing staggering levels of morbidity that centre on the most economically deprived populations. Parasites also blight food production systems by undermining plant and animal health globally. Amongst these, worm parasites cause 8 of 17 WHO-recognized Neglected Tropical Diseases and are the most common pathogens detected at UK abattoirs. Thus far, their exquisite manipulation of host immune function has undermined vaccine development and available drugs have falling efficacy in the face of parasite drug resistance, exposing a situation that is unsustainable unless improved control strategies emerge.
Whilst stem cells drive chemotherapy-resistance in many cancers, their role in parasite drug resistance has not been considered. We have developed methods to maintain liver fluke parasites for unprecedented periods outside of a host (>1 year), providing a unique opportunity to interrogate the fundamental role of parasite stem cell biology in development and drug resistance. Stem cell ablation completely compromises the ability of fluke to tolerate/recover from sub-threshold flukicide treatments. Further, preliminary analyses of drug-resistant and -susceptible isolates expose stem cell proliferation rates that correlate to drug tolerance/resistance. This project will test the hypothesis: ‘parasite stem cell dysregulation will enhance parasite control and reduce drug resistance’.
Specific skills/experience required by applicants:
All training required is available in lab; preferably some experience of molecular biology/cell culture.
UK and EU students are eligible to apply. Information on eligibility criteria is available from DfE: View Website
International applicants are welcome to apply, as additional funding may become available to cover fees at the higher rate.