Molecular epidemiology of intestinal schistosomiasis and giardiasis in Kimi and Ngamba islands, Lake Victoria

This project is set within a ‘One Health’ perspective, with an aim to provide a deeper, more holistic insight into the micro-epidemiology of intestinal schistosomiasis and giardiasis.  These chronic waterborne diseases are of national importance in many African regions yet are often considered in isolation rather than in conjunction, even though they each impact upon tropical enteropathy collectively.  Moreover, their zoonotic potential is almost completely overlooked.  Aspects of the work will be based in Uganda, on the Koome Island group, Lake Victoria, and make specific reference to Kimi and Ngamba Islands where three interlinked aims will: 1) establish a real-time PCR faecal diagnostic platform for co-detection of each parasite, comparing against current rapid diagnostic tests, and conduct an epidemiological investigation of co-infection and host morbidity; 2) investigate the anthropozoonotic potential of Schistosoma mansoni and Giardia duodenalis by genotyping representative parasite eggs/cysts obtained from humans and chimpanzees, respectively and 3) monitor the environmental risk of intestinal schistosomiasis through quarterly inspection of field-caught Biomphalaria, genotyping collected schistosome larvae, and documenting pre-patent infections by real-time PCR.  Integrating across results, our findings will be particularly valuable in future tailoring of appropriate campaigns as undertaken by national control programmes.

Where does the project lie on the Translational Pathway?

T1 – Basic Science, T2 – Human/Clinical Research, T3 – Evidence into Practice, T4 – Practice to Policy/Population

Expected Outputs

The DNA sequence information of parasites generated during this project will be useful for other researchers interested in molecular typing and evolution within Schistosoma and Giardia spp. The unique haplotypes/alleles found will be deposited in GenBank to be available for download and meta-analysis. Manuscripts resultant for this project will be published in Open Access journals such as PLoS NTDs.

 

This project would;

1)       establish a real-time PCR faecal diagnostic platform for co-detection of schistosomiasis and giardiasis ,

2)        provide epidemiological data of co-infection and host morbidity in schistosomiasis and giardiasis,

3)       reveal the anthropozoonotic potential of Schistosoma mansoni and Giardia duodenalis through genotypic representation of parasite eggs/cysts obtained from humans and chimpanzees,

4)       establish and provide a molecular-based methodology allowing monitoring of environmental risk of intestinal schistosomiasis through inspection of field-caught Biomphalaria,

5)       development of an integrated dataset particularly valuable in future tailoring of appropriate campaigns as undertaken by national control programmes in combating schistosomiasis and giardiasis.

 

Training Opportunities

LSTM provides a unique programme of training opportunities, events and seminars (updated each semester) to encourage students to meet other researchers from a wide range of specialities to grow their network. LSTM utilises innovative Technology Enhanced Learning initiatives to ensure that students working in the field are able to interact as fully as possible with training sessions. The full catalogue of MSc modules delivered at LSTM are available for study and students can attend lectures and seminars.The secondary supervisor of this PhD project is also the Director of MSc Studies in Tropical Disease Biology, and can offer a range of additional training opportunities within and around the project focus.  Specific training can include modules/lectures/online resources, covering ‘Research Methods, ‘Applied Bioinformatics’, Molecular Biology’, Advanced Statistics’ and ‘Epidemiology’ to name but a few over the time course of the PhD.

 A student undertaking this PhD training will also engage in an ongoing, self-directed programme of training and professional development throughout their studies; reflecting on their skills and identifying training needs via a ‘Development Needs Analysis’ (DNA), which is reviewed annually as a key component of the student’s formal progress review.

 

Skills Required

The student would have achieved at least a high-class BSc degree in a biological science with good content/understanding and/or additional experience of molecular biology and/or biochemistry and genetics.   A knowledge of organism culture and bioinformatics is desirable but not essential.  Experience overseas in resource-poor settings is desirable but again not essential.

Key Publications associated with this project

Standley CJ, Wade CM, Stothard JR. A fresh insight into transmission of schistosomiasis: A

misleading tale of Biomphalaria in Lake Victoria. Plos One. 2011;6(10).

Al-Shehri H, Stanton MC, LaCourse JE, Atuhaire A, Arinaitwe M, Wamboko A, et al. An

extensive burden of giardiasis associated with intestinal schistosomiasis and anaemia in school

children on the shoreline of Lake Albert, Uganda. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical

Medicine and Hygiene. 2016;110(10):597-603.

Al-Shehri H, Koukounari A, Stanton MC, Adriko M, Arinaitwe M, Atuhaire A, et al.

Surveillance of intestinal schistosomiasis during control: a comparison of four diagnostic tests

across five Ugandan primary schools in the Lake Albert region. Parasitology. 2018;145(13):1715-

22..

Stothard JR, Campbell SJ, Osei-Atweneboana MY, Durant T, Stanton MC, Biritwum NK, et al. Towards interruption of schistosomiasis transmission in sub-Saharan Africa: developing an

appropriate environmental surveillance framework to guide and to support 'end game' interventions.

Infectious Diseases of Poverty. 2017;6.

Stothard JR, Mugisha L, Standley CJ. Stopping schistosomes from 'monkeying-around' in

chimpanzees. Trends in Parasitology. 2012;28(8):320-6.

LSTM Themes and Topics – Key Words

Neglected tropical diseases

The call for applications for the 2020-21 round of studentships is now OPEN. Deadline for receipt of complete application 23:59 13th February 2020

Further information on the programme and application process can be found here