The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2020 | Biomarkers as identifiers of individuals at high risk of Schistosoma japonicum infection
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Biomarkers as identifiers of individuals at high risk of Schistosoma japonicum infection

Principal supervisor: Dr Helena Helmby (LSHTM)

Co-Supervisors: Dr Dong Xia (RVC), Dr Julius Hafalla (LSHTM)

Award includes tuition fees and a stipend of £17,009 including London Weighting (at 2019/20 rates, so slightly higher for 2020 entry)

100% FTE for 3 years, from September 2020.

Project Description

Schistosomiasis (bilharzia) is a parasitic worm infection infecting more than 200 million people worldwide. No vaccine is available. Despite attempts to control the infection with anti-helminthic drugs, low-grade chronic infections leading to anaemia, growth retardation and cognitive impairment are still prevalent. The overall aim of this project is to assess the roles of T and B cells in resistance or susceptibility to schistosomiasis re-infection in the Philippines, with a long-term goal to support vaccine development.

Previous studies have demonstrated that the ability of an individual to generate parasite-specific IgE antibodies rather than IgG4 is a critical indicator of resistance to re-infection, however, the mechanisms controlling IgE and IgG4 antibody generation in schistosomiasis remain poorly understood. Furthermore, very little is known on how protective responses are generated in naturally infected individuals. The project aim to address this gap by analysing correlates of protection and susceptibility in a prospective, longitudinal cohort study of individuals living in a schistosome-endemic area in the Philippines. Peripheral blood T and B cell phenotypes, cytokine production and antibody responses will be analysed at baseline and at follow-up intervals after treatment. The outcome of this project will enable the generation of correlates of antibody phenotypes and functions of B and T cells, and together with levels of re-infection intensity, will provide predictors of re-infection risk. The findings of this project can be used to identify and target high risk individuals for intensive chemotherapeutic interventions.

Candidate requirements

We invite applications from outstanding and highly motivated students who have a good immunology background at BSc (minimum 2:1) or MSc level.

The project will provide training in isolation and purification of cells from human blood, multiparameter flow cytometry, transcriptomics and metabolomics, as well as analysis of complex data. The student will also get to the opportunity to conduct field work in the Philippines.

The studentship is only open to applicants who meet the Home/EU fee rate requirements. For further information about Fee Status Assessment please see the School’s policy and procedure document.

Key References:

1. Gordon, C.A., et al., PLoS Negl Trop Dis 9, e0003483 (2015).

2. Butterworth, A.E., et al., Immunol Invest 21, 391-407 (1992).

3. Vinuesa, C.G., et al., Annu Rev Immunol 34, 335-368 (2016).

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Principal Supervisor: Dr Helena Helmby (helena.helmby@lshtm.ac.uk)

Co-Supervisor: Dr Dong Xia (dxia@rvc.ac.uk)

Further information about PhDs at LSHTM is available from:

Information about the MPhil/PhD programme structure at LSHTM, as well as application guidance and a link to the portal, can be found on the School’s research degrees and Doctoral College pages

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

To apply for this studentship, applicants should submit an application for research degree study in the Faculty of Infectious & Tropical Diseases, via the LSHTM application portal. Under the ‘Funding Section’ of the application form please clearly state ‘Bloomsbury PhD Studentship’. Students should submit a research proposal based on the advertisement for this project.

The deadline for applications is 23:59 (GMT) on Sunday 1 March 2020.

Incomplete applications will not be considered for this studentship.

For any queries regarding the project please contact the Principal Supervisor: Dr Helena Helmby.

For any queries regarding the application process please contact the Scholarships team: scholarships@lshtm.ac.uk

For details of studentships available at other Bloomsbury colleges but in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, please see this Bloomsbury website.

Please apply directly to the lead institution only.

Closing date for applications is:      
Deadline for applications: 23:59 on Sunday 1 March 2020.