Medical Parisitology

MPhil / PhD / MD

Parasites continue to exert a massive burden of disease, especially in developing countries. Our research in medical parasitology spans the spectrum of basic and applied research, from parasite evolution to unraveling resistance mechanisms, and understanding protective immunity in order to develop vaccines.

An international reputation for research

Liverpool's leading international reputation in infection research, tropical medicine and global health stretches back over 150 years.

I'm really pleased to be in this department. Everyone is friendly and supportive and I have access to a wide range of cutting-edge facilities to further enhance my research training. The whole experience has been very valuable to my PhD journey.

Cheng Chew Weng - Medical Parisitology PhD student
  • 150

    years of leading research in Liverpool.

  • 156

    research students in the institute.

  • £9.5m

    annual research income.

Research at Liverpool

We use the latest functional genomic and proteomic techniques to understand the basic biology of parasites that cause endemic intestinal diseases in humans, such as cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis and amoebiasis, in the UK and worldwide. We use advanced 3D tissue culture models to study host-pathogen interactions at the intestinal epithelium, with particular emphasis on apicomplexan parasites.

Our research is revealing the genomic basis to complex disease mechanisms like antigenic variation in trypanosomatid parasites, which cause neglected tropical diseases such as human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) and leishmaniaisis.

Research addressing human parasitic infections takes place at the new IC2 laboratories on the city centre campus. Our aim is to understand the molecular and physiological mechanisms of parasitic infections, as a basis for improving global health through novel disease interventions and therapies.

Using state-of-the-art imaging techniques, we are also investigating how parasites, such as Toxoplasma gondii, can evade and manipulate host immune responses for their own benefit. A large part of our research into parasite genomes is aimed at antigenic discovery, for example, of novel cell-surface invasion proteins in the malaria parasite; knowledge that will increase our appreciation of host-pathogen interactions, while facilitating vaccine design.

With respect to worm infections, we study the filarial parasites that cause onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis, including major programmes on vaccine development and the function of a bacterial symbiont in these worms (Wolbachia), which has become a novel target for antibiotic therapy.

Finally, we investigate the molecular biology and behaviour of medically-important vectors such as the chigger mites, which transmit scrub typhus.

The University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health was established to bring together leading medical, veterinary and basic science researchers from across the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.  It also complements other strengths in Liverpool, including the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the Wolfson Centre for Personalised Medicine, the Medicines for Children Research Network, and the Wellcome Trust Tropical Centre with its associated PhD programme. We also enjoy close and active collaboration with NHS colleagues through the Liverpool Health Partners Academic Health Science System.

Research interests

We particularly welcome research proposals that match those of our researchers, including:

  • Dr Ben Makepeace:  Molecular biology of filarial worms and vectors, especially mites and ticks. Bacterial symbionts as a method of disease control. Vaccine development for multicellular pathogens
  • Dr Andrew Jackson: Use of deep sequencing (genomics/transcriptomics) to examine disease mechanisms, virulence factors or antigen discovery in unicellular parasites important to human health (e.g. Plasmodium, Leishmania, Entamoeba, Trichomonas)
  • Dr Janine Coombes: Development of 3D tissue culture models to study host-pathogen interactions at the intestinal epithelium. Regulation of immune cell function in infection, including manipulation of immune cell migration by Toxoplasma gondii.


We have many years of experience in classical parasitological techniques including diagnostics: e.g., detection of parasite DNA and proteins in blood, serum and faeces. We maintain the liver fluke lifecycle in the snail and definitive sheep host and have capacity for development of advanced models for parasite transmission. In addition, The Tick Cell Biobank based in the IC2 laboratories provides access to over 50 continuous cell lines derived from ixodid and argasid ticks and other arthropods of veterinary and medical importance, several species of obligate intracellular tick-borne bacterial pathogens, and many years’ experience in techniques for tick and tick-borne disease research.

There are also direct links with University core facilities including: The Centre for Genomic Research, houses 2x HiSeq, 3x MiSeq and 1x PacBio RSII sequencers with robotic liquid handling and is supported by a pool of core-funded research scientists; The NMR Metabolomics Suite has three state-of-the-art instruments; The Centre for Cell Imaging is furnished with the latest developments in microscopy; The Centre for Proteome Research is equipped with several state-of-the-art mass spectrometers for both shotgun and targeted proteomics.

Research groups

  • Vectors and vector-borne disease group (led by Dr Ben Makepeace)
  • Parasite evolution group (led by Dr Andrew Jackson)
  • Immune dynamics group (led by Dr Janine Coombes)


Study options and fees


The Master of Philosophy (MPhil) can be thought of as a shorter version of the PhD. It requires the same research skills, training, planning, and project management. It can be a way to assess whether you wish to undertake doctoral research - or it can be taken for its own sake.

Duration Fees: Home and EU Students Fees: International Students
Full time 2-4 years £4,260 £19,850 (Lab based programmes) £16,150 (Non Lab based programmes)
Part time 4-6 years £2,130 £9,925 (Lab based programmes) £8,075 (Non Lab based programmes)

A doctoral degree is awarded to students that have demonstrated the ability to conceptualise, design, and implement a substantial research project that results in new knowledge, applications, or understanding in their field of study. During your research, you can expect to draw on direct clinical and observational experience to produce an original thesis of 80,000-100,000 words. You'll be part of a research group which matches your research interests. Research groups offer opportunities for cross-disciplinary research collaboration, as well as support and expertise for your research.

Duration Fees: Home and EU Students Fees: International Students
Full time 2-4 years £4,260 £19,850 (Lab based programmes) £16,150 (Non Lab based programmes)
Part time 4-6 years £2,130 £9,925 (Lab based programmes) £8,075 (Non Lab based programmes)

The Doctor of Medicine (MD) is a doctoral degree open to medical practitioners (technically, anyone holding a medical qualification registrable with the General Medical Council). It is equivalent in requirements and format to the PhD.

Duration Fees: Home and EU Students Fees: International Students
Full time 2-4 years £4,260 £19,850 (Lab based programmes) £16,150 (Non Lab based programmes)
Part time 2-6 years £2,130 £9,925 (Lab based programmes) £8,075 (Non Lab based programmes)

Entry requirements

Eligibility and entry qualifications

Students will normally have a minimum of a 2:1 class honours degree in a relevant biological science subject, or an equivalent medical, veterinary or dental qualification. Applicants are selected on the basis of their curriculum vitae, qualifications and referees’ reports, together with their perceived ability to complete the programme successfully.

English language requirements

To apply for this research degree, you must have reached a minimum standard of English. You need to be able to provide evidence of this.  See our English language requirements for international students for guidance on the different English language qualifications and evidence that you can provide. 

International qualifications

We welcome applications from within the EU and from around the world. You should ensure that your qualifications are equivalent to those which are required to study for this research degree.  See our guidance on international qualifications.

Additional requirements

How to apply

Research degree applications can be made online.  Before you apply, we recommend that you identify a supervisor and develop a research proposal.  You'll also need to ensure that you have funding to cover all fees.

Applications are open all year round.

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