Leprosy in humans is a chronic mycobacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium leprae and the newly described species M. lepromatosis (Singh et al 2015).The global registered prevalence of human leprosy in 2014 was 180,464 cases, the majority occurring in developing countries. We recently reported the detection of M.lepromatosis in diseased red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) in Scotland (Meredith et al 2014), and have identified similarly affected English squirrels on Brownsea Island and the Isle of Wight (Simpson et al 2015). Human leprosy no longer occurs in the UK so these findings have important implications both for human health, leprosy research, and wildlife conservation. The nine-banded armadillo is known to act as a reservoir for M.leprae, but the existence of other reservoir species, or environmental reservoirs of M. lepromatosis has not yet been described.
This PhD project will build on the findings of a pilot project on Brownsea island, Dorset (Spring 2016), where squirrel leprosy appears to be endemic. The project objectives will be to characterise the stages of the clinical presentation and pathology of leprosy, determine prevalence, morbidity and mortality within the red squirrel population and test other species, e.g. wild rodents, to further understand leprosy epidemiology and the implications of potential wildlife reservoirs. The overall aims are to a) quantify the magnitude of this novel threat, b) identify impacts and implications for conservation management and animal welfare and c) address zoonotic risks.
The student will receive a broad training in molecular diagnostic techniques, pathology, red squirrel ecology and conservation, and epidemiology. Public engagement and outreach will focus on education regarding leprosy, risk analysis and management, and addressing aspects of human perception of leprosy, particularly where these may adversely affect red squirrel conservation efforts.
Applications including a statement of interest and full CV with names and addresses (including email addresses) of two academic referees, should be sent to: Liz Archibald, The Roslin Institute, The University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Midlothian, EH25 9RG or emailed to [email protected]
When applying for the studentship please state clearly the title of the studentship and the supervisor/s in your covering letter.
All applicants should also apply through the University’s on-line application system for September 2016 entry via http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/postgraduate/degrees/index.php?r=site/view&id=826
International students should also apply for an Edinburgh Global Research Studentship (http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/student-funding/postgraduate/international/global/research).
ALL APPLICATION PROCEDURES MUST BE COMPLETED BY THE CLOSING DATE 1st FEBRUARY 2016