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Virology: Sun exposure as a novel risk factor for Zika virus infection

   Faculty of Medicine and Health

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  Dr Clive McKimmie, Dr K Shams, Dr S Griffin  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Mosquito-borne disease is now receiving unprecedented attention due to major outbreaks in new geographic areas including Brazil, Mexico, India, China, the Middle East and SE Asia. A changing climate and globalization is increasing their range, as witnessed by the spread of the Zika and dengue viruses. These viruses can cause highly disabling and sometimes lethal disease. In the absence of effective medications there now exists an urgent need to better understand these infections. Furthermore, the clinical course of these diseases is highly unpredictable, which makes the management of these patients difficult.

Infected mosquitoes transmit virus to the human host as they probe the skin for blood. As such, infection of the skin represents a key stage of infection that is a common aspect of all mosquito-borne virus infections. We showed, in a widely-reported paper, that host inflammatory responses to mosquito bites inadvertently enhances virus infection. Fascinatingly, we have now shown that exposure of the skin to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun dramatically increases your susceptibility to infection by mosquito-borne viruses. This ambitious project will work out how UV has this important enhancing effect. UV may help the virus infect cells directly or could also suppress immune responses to the virus. Potentially, sun exposure could be a useful risk factor that helps clinicians to treat patients and additionally can inform public health campaigns that aim to reduce sun exposure.

This project will benefit from using the latest biomedical technologies and a unique collaborative environment that brings to together clinicians and scientists. This includes using systems biology-based methodologies to discover new personalized medicine approaches and therapies for treating these infections. As such, this project will provide the perfect opportunity to learn new skills, gain expertise from leading specialists and publish papers in world leading journals.

This project is available as part of the International PhD Academy: Medical Research


You should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject.

Candidates whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The Faculty of Medicine and Health minimum requirements are:

  • British Council IELTS - score of 7.0 overall, with no element less than 6.5
  • TOEFL iBT - overall score of 100 with the listening and reading element no less than 22, writing element no less than 23 and the speaking element no less than 24.

How to apply:

Applications can be made at any time. To apply for this project applicants should complete an online application form and submit this alongside a full academic CV, degree transcripts (or marks so far if still studying) and degree certificates. Please make it clear in the research information section that you are applying for the International PhD Academy: Medical Research, as well as the title of the project you wish to be considered for.

We also require 2 academic references to support your application. Please ask your referees to send these references on your behalf, directly to [Email Address Removed]

Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This project is aimed at International applicants who are able to self fund their studies or who have a sponsor who will provide their funding.
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