Isabel Saldanha

Research Technician & PhD Student

I discovered my passion for research whilst studying to be a vet at the Royal Veterinary College. Graduating with a BSc (Hons) in Veterinary Sciences and dissertation exploring the impact of climate change on vector-borne disease. I then went on to complete an MSc in Veterinary Microbiology at the University of Surrey where I developed a passion for practical molecular biology and emerging infectious zoonoses.

My thesis project investigated a novel betacoronavirus species closely related to MERS-CoV in British hedgehogs in collaboration with Garden Wildlife Health (ZSL) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency. I subsequently spent some time in an IVD start-up developing a novel point-of-care diagnostic platform. Here I lead my own projects in designing and optimising several sensitive LAMP assays for the detection of human upper respiratory viral and bacterial pathogens.

My longstanding passion for neglected tropical diseases eventually led me back to academia and I joined the Tsetse Collective at LSTM as a Research Technician in 2018.

My role as a Research Technician is focused on laboratory-based analyses of tsetse flies - the primary vector of African trypanosomiasis in both humans (sleeping sickness) and livestock (nagana). This includes identification of Trypanosoma spp. and blood meal sources by molecular methods to support a variety of projects in the tsetse group.

My interests in molecular parasitology and pathogen diversity led me to propose and commence a part-time PhD in March 2021. My project aims to explore and optimise methods to detect, investigate and characterise trypanosome species genetic diversity with a focus on Democratic Republic of Congo.

Selected publications

  • Saldanha, I., Lawson, B., Goharriz, H., Rodriguez-Ramos Fernandez, J., John, S., Fooks, A., Cunningham, A., Johnson, N. and Horton, D. (2019). Extension of the known distribution of a novel clade C betacoronavirus in a wildlife host. Epidemiology and Infection, 147, E169. doi:10.1017/S0950268819000207