Veterinary Parasitology

MPhil / PhD

Parasitology encompasses the biology, transmission, immunology, epidemiology and control of parasites of veterinary and medical importance. We study a range of parasitic diseases including zoonoses, as well as ticks and the diseases they transmit.

An international reputation for research

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

My time in veterinary parasitology has given me great training and development opportunities. Laboratories are well equipped and support is always available. I've developed my research skills and the atmosphere here is very friendly and supportive.

John Graham-Brown - Veterinary Parasitology PhD student
  • 150

    years of leading research in Liverpool.

  • £9.5m

    annual research income.

  • 156

    research students in the institute.

Research at Liverpool

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 themes

Veterinary Parasitology research is based on two sites, the IC2 building on the main city campus and the Leahurst campus on the Wirral, 20 minutes away.  Parasitic diseases are of major importance to the health and welfare of animals throughout the world. As relatively large and sophisticated pathogens, parasites present particularly intriguing and difficult challenges; many are also zoonotic, transmitted between animals and humans, affecting the health of both.  We have a large, well-funded research team working on the temperate liver fluke parasite, Fasciola hepatica, the abortifacient protozoans Neospora caninum and Toxoplasma gondii, and the cyathostomins (the most significant group of gastro-intestinal nematodes affecting horses).

Another group conducts research into vector-borne parasites such as African trypanosomes and those causing malaria, focusing on the identification of virulence factors in both laboratory and natural populations. The IC2 building houses the Tick Cell Biobank, the world’s largest collection of cell lines derived from ticks and other ectoparasitic arthropods, which underpins research on many aspects of ticks and the pathogens that they transmit to livestock and humans. We have also developed advanced bovine and porcine 3D tissue culture models to study host-pathogen interactions at the intestinal epithelium, with particular emphasis on apicomplexan parasites.

Finally, we are using detailed epitope mapping to reveal potential vaccine candidates and changes in T-cell populations during chronic helminth infection.

Our underlying philosophy is to apply modern genomic, proteomic, imaging and modelling techniques to address important problems of practical relevance.  We are particularly interested in anthelmintic resistance, vaccine development and improved control through better management of disease.  

Research interests

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

  • The diagnosis, epidemiology and control of Fasciola hepatica (liver fluke), a trematode parasite and a major cause of production losses in sheep and cattle, and an emerging and serious zoonosis in some developing countries
  • Anthelmintic resistance in liver fluke and gastrointestinal parasites of livestock, including mapping of drug resistance genes using genomic technology and population genetic studies
  • Tick-pathogen interactions at the cellular and molecular level, including co-infections with pathogenic and symbiotic bacteria and viruses
  • Fundamental studies of the immune response to ruminant parasite infection
  • Use of deep sequencing (genomics/transcriptomics) to examine disease mechanisms in unicellular, vector-borne parasites (Trypanosoma, Leishmania, Apicomplexa)
  • Applying state-of-the-art imaging techniques to understand interactions between apicomplexan parasites, the intestinal epithelium, and the host immune system in 3D tissue culture models of livestock.

Facilities

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

  • Veterinary Parasitology (Professor Diana Williams, Professor Jane Hodgkinson, Dr Robin Flynn)
  • Parasite evolution group
  • Immune dynamics group (Dr Janine Coombes)
  • Vectors and vector-borne disease group (Dr Ben Makepeace, Dr Lesley Bell-Sakyi)

Study options and fees

MPhil

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)
PhD

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)
MD

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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LDC module

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