FST23: Investigating the evolutionary genetics of endemic treponematoses

The human treponematoses comprise venereal syphilis and the endemic treponematoses called yaws, bejel and pinta. Endemic treponematoses were supposedly eradicated in many regions of the world as a consequence of mass what campaigns in the 1960s. However, reservoirs persisted and expanded into communities with deficient hygiene and health care. Syphilis and endemic treponematoses still inflict a heavy burden today, making them one of the targets of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) list of neglected tropical diseases to be eradicated by 2020.

In order to contribute to WHO’s 2020 goal, this project will study the genomic relationships between Treponema genomes. This PhD involves bioinformatics integrated with robust evolutionary analyses of these genomes, to highlight conserved and variable genomic regions. The correlation of the Treponema variable regions with host species will identify host-specific regions housing proteins adapted to survival in that host.

This will identify Treponema targets where inhibitors can prevent successful parasite replication. It is possible to treat the parasite in the animal reservoirs, which will be key to mitigating the spread of these diseases. The project will also shed light on the origins of treponematoses, which are still debated. It will furthermore provide new targets for therapy in humans completing the eradication of these diseases.

The student will receive training in relevant techniques/technologies and gain expertise in a number of key project planning and analytical research and subject specific skills. The student will also take part in the University Graduate School and Faculty Doctoral Research Development Programme (DRDP) including transferable skills (eg presentation skills, scientific writing and employability skills) which aid in their future career progression. The student will also be encouraged to join relevant learned societies, which provide excellent support for students in terms of training opportunities and meetings to disseminate and publish their research.

Further enquiries

Please contact Dr Pascale Gerbault, [email protected].


5pm on 10 February 2017

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Applications should be made to the Life Sciences MPhil/PhD programme and you should clearly state that you are applying for a Quintin Hogg Trust Scholarship and the Scholarship code (eg FST1) on your application.

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