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PhD Studentship: Investigating the Role of Sheep and Goat in Interspecies Transmission of Pestiviruses in Cattle and Pig Populations in the UK

University of Surrey

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Weybridge
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: Funding will cover University tuition fees at the UK/home rate and a stipend for three and half years at RCUK levels (£19,237 per year)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 20th June 2024
Closes: 1st July 2024

This is an exciting fully funded PhD studentship opportunity exploring virus host interaction and the role of sheep and goat in the transmission of pestiviruses to and impact on other important livestock species in the UK.

The Pestiviruses, including Bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV), Border disease virus (BDV) and Classical swine Fever virus (CSFV), are among the economically most important pathogens of livestock. Several newly emerged pestivirus species were introduced into cattle, pigs and wild ruminant populations during the last decade. BDV infections are sporadically reported in European pig population but as many infections are subclinical there is limited information about the true prevalence.  Ovine pestiviruses continue to infect pigs and cattle population with potential to complicate CSF and BVD diagnosis, impact international trade and cause animal welfare issues and production losses for both the pig and cattle industry. Understanding the transmission dynamics and the role of sheep and goat in maintaining pestiviruses in cattle and pigs can inform strategies for effective and sustainable disease eradication programmes in the UK and support international trade.

During the PhD you will develop a diagnostic toolbox to differentiate between BDV, BVD and CSFV using various molecular techniques including whole genome sequencing, reverse genetics and using epidemiological methods to evaluate the transmission risk.

The project is jointly funded by the UK Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA) and the University of Surrey. The successful candidate will primarily work at APHA, Weybridge, Surrey. This project will require working in containment facilities, and health and security clearances will be required before starting the PhD.

Overall, the student will gain significant research experience in molecular virology, immunology, and epidemiology. The project will provide the student with a valuable opportunity to interact with a multidisciplinary research team including virologists, species experts and epidemiologists from APHA and the University of Surrey.

Supervisors

Dr Abel Ekiri, Dr Amin Asfor, Dr Helen Crooke (APHA), Prof Falko Steinbach.

Entry requirements

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

The PhD studentship is expected to commence in October 2024 but later start dates are possible.

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our PhD programme.

Applicants with a degree in biomedical sciences or related subjects are welcomed if they have a strong interest in virus disease transmission, virus host range restriction and epidemiology. Veterinary graduates are also encouraged to apply. A master’s degree or equivalent research experience in a related subject is desirable. Experience in epidemiological approaches or qualitative methods or with livestock is useful but not essential.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted 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.

Funding

Funding will cover University tuition fees at the UK/home rate and a stipend for three and half years at RCUK levels (£19,237 per year).

Application deadline: Friday 1 July 2024

Enquiries

Contact Dr Abel Ekiri (ab.ekiri@surrey.ac.uk) and Dr Amin Asfor (amin.asfor@apha.gov.uk)

Ref: PGR-2324-006

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