Sara Healy

Postgraduate Researcher

Sara is a full-time postgraduate researcher based at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Surrey. The focus of her PhD is the zoonotic parasite Toxocara, which can cause human toxocariasis, a neglected disease affecting millions of people worldwide. The condition has been linked to debilitating disorders, such as epilepsy, visual impairment and asthma. It is widely accepted that humans can become infected with Toxocara via accidental soil ingestion, but many gaps in our understanding of this parasite's epidemiology remain, including the role of food-borne transmission. Toxocara eggs have been isolated on vegetable produce, anti-Toxocara antibodies have been detected in the blood of food animals, and Toxocara larvae have been found in meat tissues. Sara’s project will be assessing the risk of human infection with this parasite via food consumption and investigating how we may intervene to mitigate these risks and protect public health. She is supervised by Dr. Martha Betson, Prof. Eric Morgan and Dr. Joaquin Prada. Prior to commencing her doctoral studies, she completed a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (2008) from the Royal Veterinary College and a Master’s in Veterinary Microbiology (2018) from the University of Surrey. After qualifying as a vet, Sara worked in clinical practice for 9 years, before taking a position as a Teaching Fellow at the University of Surrey until starting her PhD in 2020. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and continues to enjoy teaching students alongside her studies. Her key research interests are parasitology, zoonoses, public health and food safety.