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Microbiology & Parasitology

Introduction

Since the development of the "germ theory of disease" in the mid-1800s, a spectrum of microorganisms have been identified as the causative agents of many infectious diseases. Pathogenic bacteria, protozoan and metazoan parasites have threatened human and animal health throughout recorded history and remain major causes of illness worldwide. These pathogens undergo rapid genetic change and evolution, and are subject to intense selection pressure arising from the use of chemotherapeutic drugs and vaccines. As novel variants of these agents arise, the danger of less controllable disease is increasing not diminishing. In particular, emerging multi-drug resistance threatens to overwhelm our capacity to control infections. Thus, although substantial progress has been made in combating disease, there are reasons to believe the threat of infection may intensify in future. Consequently, there is a vital need to further increase our understanding of both the basic biology of pathogenic organisms and the concomitant host immune responses to them. In turn, this will underpin the development of new drugs, vaccines and vaccine delivery systems.

The Course

The Microbiology and Parasitology Option focuses on the mechanisms that underlie diseases caused by a number of important bacteria, protozoa and helminths. Agents of communicable disease that lie at the forefront of current research efforts or represent major neglected diseases of mankind are discussed, although the course is not constructed around a taxonomic approach. Emphasis is placed on the combined use of molecular, cellular and structural biology to unravel detailed structure-function relationships underlying pathogen-host interactions. The course also adopts a broader biological approach and addresses issues relating to epidemiology, vaccine development and chemotherapy. Sufficient background is covered to enable students to appreciate how host responses to parasite infections can result in useful immunity and sometimes in harmful immunopathology. Additionally, disease control projects in Africa and South America linked to members of the Division are used to illustrate contemporary issues in the control of infectious diseases.

Dissertation

This should be prepared according to the specific details given by the Faculty Board.

Example Dissertation Titles:

  • How effective is mosquito control for combatting malaria and mosquito transmitted viral diseases?
  • The ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like oathways in parasite pathogens: potential for theraputic intervention
  • Anti-virulence as a strategy against antimicrobial resistance.
  • How effective is mosquito control for combating malaria & mosquito-transmitted viral diseases?
  • The Future and Potential of Efflux Pump Inhibitors as a Means to Counteract Antibiotic Resistance in Bacteria.
  • Quorum sensing in bacterial pathogens:  how does pathogen-host cross-talk contribute to infection?
  • Does the gut microbiota play a role in the onset and manifestation of regressive autism?
  • The role of quorum sensing in Burkholderia pseudomallei and melioidosis
  • Does the gut microbiome influence the development of Alzheimer's disease?
  • Akkermansia muciniphila and metabolic health of the gut:  correlation or causation?