Dr Lucas Cunningham

Post-Doctoral Research Associate

Lucas started his career in the biological sciences with a Zoology degree from University of Wales, Aberystwyth and followed this up with two years of volunteering and working in the parasitic worms department of the Natural History Museum (London). In 2012 he completed an MSc in Medical Parasitology from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with his thesis focusing on the urban and per-urban epidemiology of schistosomiasis in Wad Medni, North Sudan. Following his MSc Lucas began his PhD, (Detection and control of T. brucei s.l. in the Historic sleeping sickness foci of N.W. Uganda) at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine which he completed in 2017.

Prior to completing his PhD Lucas joined the Countdown consortium in 2015, he has since been involved in the TrypaNo-2 and TrypaNo-3 projects and is currently lead PDRA in molecular diagnostics for the Hybridisation in UroGenital Schistosomiasis (HUGS) study at LSTM under Professor J. Russell Stothard (https://www.lstmed.ac.uk/hugs).

Current research projects:

Detection and characterisation of anthroponotic and zoonotic schistosome species and hybrids from cattle, humans and snails in Southern Malawi as part of the HUGS study. As part of this study a two-tube HRM assay has been developed capable of rapidly screening samples for species typing and hybrid identification.

Development and implementation of a mobile molecular laboratory for xenomintoring of African Trypanosomiasis in N.W. Uganda. A four-month trial has been carried out in 2022 with a follow-up trial to start in 2024. Field-friendly DNA extraction and reagent preparation have been developed and complimented with the design and implementation of a two-week training programme for field staff.

Development of species-specific qPCR diagnostic for Strongyloidiasis. Initial work has begun in order to produce an improved qPCR diagnostic capable of differentiating anthroponotic and zoonotic species of the genus Strongyloides in collaboration with international partners.

Improving Lyme disease diagnostics and surveillance based on alternative molecular methods. Current work has involved the trialling of immuno-PCR as a method for antigen detection.

Surveillance of beta-tubulin markers for drug resistance in hookworms (Cambodia and Malawi) as part of a multi-disciplinary team based at LSTM. 


Laboratory demonstrator on MSc (TROP 939 & TROP 719) and DTM&H taught courses (helminths, protozoa and vectors)

Lectures on MSc (TROP 939 & TROP 719) and DTM&H course, specialising in gut protozoa, African trypanosomiasis and molecular methods

He has led capacity building workshops in UK, Ghana and Uganda for the implementation of novel qPCR diagnostics for the detection of helminths and African trypanosomes.

Student supervision and co-supervision of BSc (2x), MSc (12x) and PhD (2x) projects since 2015 to present. 

Additional experience and expertise

Lucas took part in the WHO expert panel on “Vector control and the elimination of gambiense human African trypanosomiasis (HAT)” in 2021: https://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/cc0178en

Lucas has conducted multiple field trips to Ghana and Uganda as well as field work in Northern Sudan.

In 2020 he was successful in securing a grant for a pilot study into the use of immuno-PCR for improved diagnosis of Lyme disease.

Leads the medical entomological identification group at LSTM

Specialist Editor for Frontiers in Parasite Diagnostics


PhD Thesis: The Identification and Control of Trypanosoma brucei s.l. in the vector and non-human host populations of N.W. Uganda

My PhD thesis aims to assess the applicability of different technologies for the identification of T. brucei s.l. in the vector population as well as assessing the impact of the tiny target vector control technology on the transmission of trypanosomes in the local cattle population. 

RA work with CouNTDown: ICST 2 – Access to mass drug administration, community led total sanitation and diagnostics

The work I carry out for CouNTDown concentrates on the development and implementation of molecular diagnostic techniques in in-country settings with a focus on capacity building and strengthening. 

Teaching Experience

Laboratory Demonstrator (2013-2016)

Lectured on the DTM&H course (2014-2015)

Capacity Building qPCR workshop in Ghana (2016)

Student mentorship I have co-supervised five MSc students from 2015-2016 and I am currently supervising a BSc student from the Tropical Disease and Biology course at Liverpool University. 

Public Speaking

  • BSP Spring meeting- 2016
  • BSP Spring meeting- 2015
  • Liverpool NTD conference- 2014
  • All Party Parliamentary Meeting for Malaria and NTDs- 2014
  • RES Northern meeting- 2013
  • Hybridization in UroGenital Schistosomiasis (HUGS): A novel real-time PCR assay, with high resolution melt profiling, useful for the detection of hybrid schistosomes in Malawi, April 2023, British Society of Parasitology 
  • Development of qPCR screen for hybrid Schistosomes, June 2022, Centres for Drugs and Diagnostics Showcase (LSTM)  
  • Detection of T. b. gambiense infections in tsetse flies (xenomonitoring), October, 2021, WHO Virtual Expert Meeting “Vector control and the elimination of gambiense human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) 
  • Application of molecular methods to helminth diagnostics, December 2019, Newton Shanghai Helminth Conference 2019 
  • Following up community wide treatment for schistosomiasis in three communities from the greater Accra region, Ghana, September 2019, ECTMIH 
  • ISNTD d3, Piloting the use of the Global Polio Laboratory Network to advance molecular diagnostics of helminthiasis, June 2018, ISNTD 
  • CouNTDown in Ghana: molecular diagnostic capacity building at local and national levels, April 2016, British Society of Parasitology 
  • Development of a xenomonitoring tool to monitor sleeping sickness, April 2015, British Society of Parasitology 
  • The little pigs and the big bad trypanosome, August 2014, All Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Disease  
  • Transmission dynamics of trypanosomes in North West Uganda, December 2013, Royal Entomological Society 

Selected publications

  • Alexandra Juhász, Scott E. J. Barlow, Hannah Williams, Bridget Johnson, Naomi D. Walsh, Lucas Cunningham, Sam Jones, E. James LaCourse, J. Russell Stothard. A report of Bilharziella polonica cercariae in Knowsley Safari, Prescot, United Kingdom, with notes on other trematodes implicated in human cercarial dermatitis. Journal of Helminthology. 2022; 96

    16.         Mohammad H. Alharbi, Cynthia Iravoga, Sekeleghe A. Kayuni, Lucas Cunningham, E. James LaCourse, Peter Makaula and J. Russell Stothard. First Molecular Identification of Bulinus africanus in lake Malawi implicated in transmitting Schistosoma parasites. Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease. 2022;7(8).

    Cunningham LJ, Lingley JK, Tirados I, Esterhuizen J, Opiyo M, Mangwiro CTN, et al. Evidence of the absence of human African trypanosomiasis in two northern districts of Uganda: Analyses of cattle, pigs and tsetse flies for the presence of Trypanosoma brucei gambiense. Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases. 2020;14(4).

    11.         Cunningham LJ, Campbell SJ, Armoo S, Koukounari A, Watson V, Selormey P, et al. Assessing expanded community wide treatment for schistosomiasis: Baseline infection status and self-reported risk factors in three communities from the Greater Accra region, Ghana. Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases. 2020;14(4).

    10.         Armoo S, Cunningham LJ*, Campbell SJ, Aboagye FT, Boampong FK, Hamidu BA, et al. Detecting Schistosoma mansoni infections among pre-school-aged children in southern Ghana: a diagnostic comparison of urine-CCA, real-time PCR and Kato-Katz assays. Bmc Infectious Diseases. 2020;20(1).

    Lucas J. Cunningham, Jessica K. Lingley, Lee R. Haines, Joseph M. Ndung’u, Stephen J. Torr, Emily R. Adams (2016) ‘Illuminating the Prevalence of Trypanosoma brucei s.l. in Glossina Using LAMP as a Tool for Xenomonitoring’, Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases, vol. 10, no. 2.