PhD studentship: Climatic drivers of co-infection and disease emergence in livestock in Central Asia

University of Bristol - School of Veterinary Sciences and School of Life Sciences

The project:
Outbreaks of highly fatal disease caused by systemic invasion of commensal bacteria have been recorded recently in wild antelopes grazing the steppes of Central Asia. Results indicate that invasion of Pasteurella multocida across the mucosa was the proximate cause of death, but underlying factors remain uncertain. Livestock have also been affected and this poses a serious concern for the health and welfare of domestic horses, cattle, sheep and goats in the region. This is especially so because recolonisation of the steppes following collapse of farming in the post-Soviet era is crucial for regional food security and economic development. This project will examine the epidemiology of this emerging disease syndrome from several perspectives. Statistical modelling will be used to identify climatic and landscape drivers of disease outbreaks, giving clues to both future risks and potential mechanisms underlying disease emergence. Field work will obtain material from clinical cases as well as healthy animals, including through sequential sampling, to compare the microbiological and parasitic communities and identify anomalies associated with disease emergence. Characterising the seasonal and host-associated norms for microbiome and parasite communities will form an important part of the work, to generate baselines against which changes can be measured. This will include nutritional and physiological states that are associated with changes to parasite and microbiome communities, and potentially affecting mucosal integrity. Farmers will be interviewed to gather additional information on disease occurrence, their current coping strategies, and attitudes to future control methods. Outputs from these strands of work will be integrated in a predictive model, which will identify times and places of high risk for disease emergence, and help to target surveillance and the deployment of limited resources such as vaccines most effectively. Other creative approaches such as planned grazing and nutritional supplementation will also be assessed in the model. The project will have a strong quantitative component, and will also involve extensive field work in Kazakhstan, and laboratory investigations in Kazakhstan and the UK. Training will be provided in a wide range of research methods including computer modelling of disease epidemiology, field sampling and diagnostic methods, and advanced laboratory skills including microbiology and molecular biology. The successful candidate will be expected to travel extensively and to build collaborations with overseas partners as well as collaborating UK-based institutions.

How to apply:
Please make an online application for this project at http://www.bris.ac.uk/pg-howtoapply. Please select South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (PhD) on the Programme Choice page and enter details of the studentship when prompted in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form

Candidate requirements: 
First-class or upper second-class bachelor’s degree in a relevant (biological or veterinary) subject. MSc and history of peer-reviewed publication an advantage, as well as field experience. Must have a strong interest in disease processes and epidemiology, aptitude in quantitative methods, and be willing to travel.

Funding:
For funding and eligibility information, please see the BBSRC SWBio Doctoral Training Partnership website: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/swbio/apply/eligibility.html.

Contacts:
eric.morgan@bristol.ac.uk

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

South West England