Serosurveillance of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases in England


Lyme disease (LD) is caused by infection with bacteria of the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato genospecies group, transmitted by Ixodes ticks. LD is the most common vector-borne disease in the UK, with 2.7 laboratory confirmed new cases per 100 000 in England and Wales in 2017. LD surveillance by UKHSA is based on laboratory-confirmed cases and underestimates the true incidence, as many cases are diagnosed clinically, and no samples are taken from mild cases or those with non-specific symptoms. There is no formal surveillance data for other tick-borne infections such as tick-borne encephalitis, anaplasmosis or relapsing-like fever due to Borrelia miyamotoi.

This project will determine the prevalence in the blood (seroprevalence) of specific antibodies to Borrelia species and other tick-borne pathogens as a measure of prior population exposure to these pathogens. The student will conduct a study to investigate regional differences in Borrelia (and other tick-borne pathogen) seroprevalence across England using a random cross-section of residual plasma from NHS Blood & Transplant blood donors. This will be compared with national Lyme disease incidence data over the same period, using UKHSA data on laboratory-confirmed cases. The student will also design and execute a cross-sectional seroprevalence study to identify occupational/recreational risk factors for tick-borne disease exposure, using healthy volunteers recruited prospectively.  

The findings will substantially improve understanding of the extent of exposure of the English population to Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, to better target public health information and future interventions.

The successful applicant will receive comprehensive research training in study design (including research governance and ethics), laboratory techniques (in particular serology testing), and in epidemiological methodology and data analysis. 

The award is funded by the NIHR and is part of the Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections (EZI) . This HPRU brings together internationally leading researchers at the University of Liverpool, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the University of Oxford and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), to support and strengthen UKHSA in its role protecting the nation from emerging and zoonotic infections and biological threats.

For any enquires please contact: Dr Amanda Semper

To apply please send a CV and 2-page max cover letter to

Interviews are scheduled to take place from Monday 6th December. 

The successful applicant is expected to start in January/February 2022.

Supervisors: Prof N French, Prof R Vivancos, Prof P Simmonds, Dr A Semper and Dr John Tulloch


Open to EU/UK applicants

Funding information

Funded studentship

The studentship is funded for 3 years on a full-time basis. The student will be registered with the University of Liverpool and be based at the UKHSA site at Porton Down in Wiltshire, where all laboratory work will be carried out. The student will also spend some time at the University of Liverpool for postgraduate training courses and for epidemiological training.



John Tulloch: