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Understanding population, genetic and antigenic diversity of the poultry red mite to improve prospects for vaccine development

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  • Full or part time
    Dr D Blake
    Prof F Tomley
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

Supervisors: Dr Damer Blake (RVC), Professor Fiona Tomley (RVC), Dr Alasdair Nisbet (Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh, UK)

Department: Pathology and Pathogen Biology

The poultry red mite (PRM; Dermanyssus gallinae) is a major threat to economic egg production and poses a welfare risk for laying hens. Losses associated with PRM have been estimated to cost the European poultry industry ~€130 million per annum. Losses are likely to increase as our ability to exert control is eroded by reduction of the number of acaricides available and resistance to those which remain. In the absence of effective management or chemical control vaccines are urgently required. The successful development and application of a recombinant vaccine will rely on multiple research strands: identification of effective immunoprotective antigens which are characterised by minimal genetic polymorphism, as well as an optimal delivery strategy. While progress is being made in two of these three strands, the occurrence and extent of genetic polymorphism is unclear.

In this project we aim to use a combination of molecular genetics and epidemiological analyses to gain an understanding of PRM population structure and antigenic diversity. The work proposed will be directly relevant to the economic competitiveness of UK and European agriculture, recognising the challenge of ‘feeding 9Bn people sustainably by 2050’ in an enabling partnership with the British Egg Marketing Board.

The objectives of this project are to: ·

- utilise next-generation sequence datasets to identify informative genetic markers for PRM,
- collaborate with existing UK and EU funded projects to define the extent and impact of PRM genetic diversity (gene specific and genome-wide) and
- carry out a classical observational epidemiology study to identify pre-slaughter variables associated with PRM occurrence and diversity.

The studentship will commence at the beginning of October 2016.

Interviews for studentships - will be held on 16th March or in the w/c 21st March 2016 at the RVC’s Camden or Hawkshead Campuses

Funding Notes

This is a four year fully funded studentship funded by the British Egg Marketing Board (BEMB) Research and Education Trust. It is is open to British nationals only and you must be eligible for Home fees.


Pritchard J, Kϋster T, Sparagano O & Tomley F (2015). Understanding the biology and control of the poultry red mite Dermanyssus gallinae: a review. Avian Pathol 44:143-153.
Bartley K, Wright HW, Huntley JF, Manson ED, Inglis NF, McLean K, Nath M, Bartley Y & Nisbet AJ (2015) Identification and evaluation of vaccine candidate antigens from the poultry red mite (Dermanyssus gallinae). Int J Parasitol 45:819-830.
Øines Ø & Brannstrom S (2011). Molecular investigations of cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) and the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) in the poultry red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, in northern Europe and implications for its transmission between laying poultry farms. Med Vet Entomol 25:402-412.
Blake DP, Clark EL, Macdonald SE, Thenmozhi V, Kundu K, Garg R, Jatau ID, Ayoade S, Kawahara F, Moftah A, Reid AJ, Adebambo AO, Álvarez-Zapata R, Srinivasa Rao ASR, Thangaraj K, Banerjee PS, Raj GD, Raman M, Tomley FM (2015) Population, genetic and antigenic diversity of the apicomplexan Eimeria tenella and their relevance to vaccine development. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112:E5343–E5350.

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