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.
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.
- 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)