Meaningful microbiomes: Investigation of host-microbiome interactions in liver fluke infections

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Clinical Veterinary Science


The problem: Drug resistance currently threatens the control of helminth parasite infections in food producing animals, constituting a serious threat to global food security. Liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica) is a highly pathogenic trematode parasite infecting cattle, sheep and goats, to which widespread drug resistance has been reported. As a result, research is focusing on the identification of novel strategies to improve control of these infections. One key approach is the identification of factors which impact upon the host's immune response to infection; in particular, gut commensal bacteria have been identified as playing an important role in regulating such responses.

The approach: In this project the student will, for the first time, provide a detailed examination of the impact of F. hepatica infection on the gastrointestinal (GI) microbiota, metabolites and host immune responses in sheep. A range of state-of-the-art sequencing (microbial 16S rRNA amplicon and RNA seq), and metabolite detection techniques (nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, gas/liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry) will be employed by the student to profile host responses to infection. Following this, bioinformatics analyses and advanced biostatistical data integration techniques will be developed to identify host-parasite-microbiome associations at different stages of F. hepatica infection. This study will contribute significantly to our knowledge of the role of the GI microbiome in immune responses to F. hepatica infection, and will form the basis of future studies aimed at improving our control of this economically important parasite.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/T008741/1 30/09/2020 29/09/2028
2434324 Studentship BB/T008741/1 30/09/2020 29/09/2024 Abbie Williams
Description We have discovered a fundamental principles which influence microbiome composition and are in the process of following this up. The results of this could better improve microbiome study design and how we think about microbiome intervention.
Exploitation Route More focus into fundamental microbiome concepts and how/if we can intervene in the microbiome.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description Colloboration with Rothamstead research platform (North Wyke) 
Organisation Rothamsted Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Agreement to carry out an experiment at the facilities, as well as future grant work for my supervisor. In addition, another side project based on sampling from animals in an existing experiment for microbiome support.
Collaborator Contribution Use of facilities, sampling in alignment with their licensing, data sharing, discussion and experimental planning.
Impact Experiment due to start this year and in the planning phase, so no outputs yet.
Start Year 2023