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Using Microbial Networks To Quantify Transmission Dynamics of Bovine Tuberculosis. Biosciences PhD CASE studentship (BBSRC SWBio DTP funded)

College of Life and Environmental Sciences

Dr X Harrison , Prof R McDonald , Prof D Delahay Monday, December 07, 2020 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The SWBio DTP is one of the 12 Doctoral Training Partnerships funded by the BBSRC to provide PhD training in areas of their strategic relevance. The SWBio DTP is a consortium comprising the Universities of Bristol (lead), Bath, Cardiff, Exeter, and Rothamsted Research. Together, these institutions present a distinctive cadre of bioscience research staff and students with established international, national and regional networks and widely recognised research excellence.

The aim of this DTP is to produce highly motivated and excellently trained postgraduates in the BBSRC priority areas of Agriculture & Food Security (AFS) and World-Class Underpinning Bioscience (WCUB). These are growth areas of the biosciences and for which there will be considerable future demand.

The award:

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP).

Project Description:

The increasing incidence of emerging infectious disease in animals presents a challenge to health and welfare of people, as well as commercially important species such as livestock. Tackling the emergence and spread of highly infectious diseases require that we understand the major routes of pathogen transmission, and the relative contributions of direct and indirect sources of infection. This PhD will use metagenomic sequencing of faecal and environmental samples collected in a disease hotspot to build putative transmission networks for the pathogen Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of bovine tuberculosis. The student will use these networks to quantify the frequency of within-species, between-species and host environment contact events, and their implications for the prevalence and transmission of the pathogen.

These metrics will be validated with contemporaneous estimates of host contact from cattle fitted with proximity sensing collars. This work will also yield novel insights into the importance of the gut microbiome for the health of commercially important species. The project will be a collaboration between the University of Exeter and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, and will provide training in a range of important techniques. These include integration of field and laboratory studies of infection, disease transmission modelling and cutting edge genomic and disease diagnostic techniques.

Funding Notes

BBSRC SWBio DTP funded CASE studentship available for September 2021 entry. The studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £15,285 per annum for 2020-21, on a full time basis.

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