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Causes and consequences of immune variation in rodents

The norm is to be exposed to a wide range of infectious organisms and most wild animals are infected with a wide range of parasites. Yet in modern societies we humans are infected with relatively few parasites and as a consequence the hygiene hypothesis suggests we are developing autoimmune diseases and allergies. Laboratory mice are excellent organisms for studying the immune consequences of infection under defined conditions but studies are usually on single infections using inbred mice. In natural systems however animals (and humans) are exposed to many different infections and environmental influences that shape our immune system. Arguably naturally infected wild provide a better study system to test the hygiene hypothesis.

This PhD will be integrated into a multi-institutional NERC-funded project (Liverpool/Nottingham/Aberystwyth universities) on immunodynamics in natural rodent populations. The work, using the Kielder field voles model (Parasitology 141: 997-1017), will combine high throughput RT-PCR analysis of gene expression (Molecular Ecology 20: 893-909) with large-scale manipulative field experiments.

The aim of this PhD is to examine the effects of diet and gut infections on the balance of the gut flora in voles and how this relates to the immune phenotype and the fitness of these populations in their natural environment.

Eligibility: Applicants should hold a minimum of a 2i degree in Biological Sciences or a related subject with expertise in Ecology and an interest in Immunology and/or microbiology. For Further details please contact Prof Jan Bradley