RVC PhD Studentship on spatial and zoonotic epidemiology of schistosomiasis

07 Aug 2017

The Royal Veterinary College are offering a 3 year fully funded PhD studentship to work on a project entitled: Modelling the spatial and zoonotic epidemiology of schistosomiasis in an elimination landscape

RVC Supervisor(s): Dr Martin Walker, Professor Joanne Webster

Schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) targeted for elimination by annual or semi-annual mass distribution of the antischistosomal drug praziquantel. In 2015 alone, approximately 70 million mainly schoolchildren living in poor predominantly rural communities in lower and lower-middle income countries received praziquantel. The pace of progress towards elimination is geographically variable because of a combination of factors including variable drug responses, transient human populations, heterogeneity in treatment coverage and adherence and the underlying propensity for transmission. This variation is unmasking a landscape of so-called ‘hot-spots’ of infection where transmission is ongoing, and ‘got-spots’ where transmission has been suppressed or is nearing interruption.

A key challenge faced by control and elimination programs is how to protect ‘got-spots’ from exogenous infections introduced from proximate ‘hot-spots’ and increasingly recognized hybrid schistosome species from zoonotic snail and livestock reservoirs of infection.

This project will combine molecular epidemiology and mathematical transmission modelling to evaluate the risk posed by ‘hot-spots’ of infection and potential zoonotic reservoirs to ‘got-spots’ and will design surveillance and response strategies to counter schistosomiasis recrudescence.

The project will use a combination of molecular data generated from previous studies conducted in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa, de novo molecular analysis of existing parasite samples, and will also include the opportunity to undertake fieldwork to collect and analyse new parasite material.

The research will advance existing understanding of the spatial and zoonotic epidemiology of schistosomiasis, push forward NTD modelling methodology and deliver results with practical applications to the design and implementation of schistosomiasis intervention and surveillance strategies in a future post-elimination era.  

References:

L├ęger E, et al. Introgressed animal schistosomes Schistosoma curassoni and S. bovis naturally infecting humans. Emerg Infect Dis 2016; 22: 2212-2214

Webster JP, et al. Who acquires infection from whom and how? Disentangling multi-host and multi-mode transmission dynamics in the ‘elimination’ era. Phil Trans R Soc B 2016; 372: 20160091

Gower CM, et al. Population genetic structure of Schistosoma mansoni and Schistosoma haematobium from across six sub-Saharan African countries: Implications for epidemiology, evolution and control. Acta Trop. 2013 Nov;128(2):261-74

Desirable requirements:

  • epidemiology
  • mathematics
  • statistics
  • population genetics
  • or a related quantitative discipline 

This is a three year fully funded studentship. It is open to Home/EU applicants only.  International students are welcome to apply but must be able to pay the difference between UK/EU and international tuition fees.

This is a competition studentship. 

The studentship will commence in 2017, it will be based at the RVC's Hawkshead Campus.

How to apply 

For more information on the application process and English Language requirements see How to Apply. Applications should be made via UKPASS.

Application deadline - 12 September 

Interviews will be held in the week commencing  2nd or 9th of October at either the  Camden or Hawkshead Campus (dates and site to be confirmed)

Informal enquiries should be directed to: Dr Martin Walker

View this information on rvc.ac.uk