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PhD Studentship: Understanding the Host-Pathogen interaction of Hepatitis E virus in pigs

University of Surrey - Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Guildford
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £19,237 annual stipend
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 13th May 2024
Closes: 1st July 2024
Reference: PGR-2324-030

Supervisors:

Prof Falko Steinbach, f.steinbach@surrey.ac.uk;

Prof Dirk Werling, dwerling@rvc.ac.uk

Contact for enquiries: Prof Falko Steinbach

Start month: October 2024 

Length of funding: 3 years

Application deadline: 01/07/2024

Later start dates may be possible – please contact once deadline passes.

Project Description

Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is the causative agent of hepatitis E, a human liver disease with worldwide occurrence. Of particular interest is HEV genotype 3 (HEV-3) which is zoonotic, infecting a diverse range of hosts, including pigs. In contrast to the human infection, the infection of pigs with HEV remains always subclinical. However, the level of HEV replication post infection is highly variable between pigs, the reasons for which are unclear, as is the infection cycle within pigs. Investigations in other human viral infections have revealed differences in gut microbiota to be associated with levels of immunity and viral load. No comparative data are available for HEV in pigs, nor is there a vaccine available.

This project will comprehensively test different vaccine approaches against HEV in pigs, applying a range of methods from measuring Abs to the protective signature in the liver. The hypothesis is that the vaccines may not be able to prevent infection, but to reduce HEV replication to an extend that onward transmission between pigs would no longer be possible. To that extend the approaches to investigate the above concept are as follows:

  • Use of an oral vaccine, a parantal vaccine, and the combination of the above – as prime/boost approach
  • In all cases the project will analyse the levels and quality of Abs generated.
  • The project will further analyse the induction of T cells by the vaccine – such analysis will be undertaken via liver and gut samples (locally) as well as systemically (in blood). The project can use flow cytometry, RNASeq or scRNASeq to demonstrate the full spectrum of functional T cells induced.

The most promising candidate approach will then also be used for a challenge study.

Funding offer: UKRI standard stipend – £19,237 per annum for 2024-25

Eligibility: Open to candidates who pay UK/home rate fees. See UKCISA for further information.

Applications should be submitted via the programme page, by clicking the 'Apply' button, above. In place of a research proposal you should upload a document stating the title of the project that you wish to apply for and the name of the relevant supervisor.

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