PhD Studentship “Development of improved diagnostics for the detection of Neospora caninum infected cattle”



Moredun Research Institute (MRI) is internationally recognised for its work on livestock disease pathogenesis, the development of diagnostic tests and the creation of novel vaccines. Scientists at Moredun work closely with farmers and vets to increase understanding of livestock diseases and develop strategies to help reduce disease prevalence and incidence locally, nationally and worldwide.

The protozoan parasite Neospora caninum is the most frequently diagnosed infectious cause of abortion in cattle in the United Kingdom and worldwide. Research at Moredun has found direct evidence of the parasite in 20% of abortion cases that were submitted for diagnosis in a Scottish study. Unfortunately, serology based diagnosis for Neospora infection is not very reliable due to many false negative results, which are caused by a drop in antibody levels, against the actively growing stage of the parasite, in persistently infected animals. The aim of this PhD project is to identify immunogenic stage specific antigens that are expressed by the parasite in the cyst stage, which is the stage found in persistently infected animals. The completed and annotated genome sequence of Neospora is now available and we plan to mine this resource to identify suitable target genes. We aim to produce these antigens in bacterial expression systems and then evaluate their potential using a gold standard serum bank from Neospora infected cattle that test negative with current ELISA tests. Promising antigens will be evaluated in a diagnostic ELISA format. Having a reliable test that will allow the identification of all infected animals will be a very desirable tool for the cattle industry. This will allow farmers to identify their non-infected cattle, which is essential for breeding out Neospora from infected herds. A reliable test will also allow testing replacement cattle and ensure that no Neospora infected carrier animals are introduced into uninfected herds.

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We are looking for a highly-motivated, suitably qualified person (minimum 2.1 Hons in a biological science, preferably in Parasitology, Zoology or Molecular Biology, MSc in a related subject or a veterinary degree). It is essential that you have general laboratory skills, experience working with DNA or Proteins or serum and have relevant IT skills.

Funding will provide support for tuition fees, laboratory expenses and BBSRC-level stipend for three years.

Please complete an application pack available on our website via the Apply button below and send it to Human Resources, Moredun Research Institute, Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Penicuik EH26 0PZ or email to [email protected]

For an informal discussion regarding this post please contact Dr Frank Katzer, Principal Scientist ([email protected]) or telephone 0131 445 5111)

The closing date for applications is Friday 2nd August 2013 

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