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Mr Daniel Parsons

Research project: Are humans an antigenic sink for schistosomes? The evolution and molecular epidemiology of antigenic variation in vaccine targets against Schistosoma japonicum

Abstract

Schistosoma japonicum is a leading cause of human and animal schistosomiasis, and is endemic across much of Asia. There is currently no effective vaccine against schistosomiasis and little is known about the full extent of genetic variation of Antigen Coding Genes (ACGs) within and between hosts infected with S. japonicum, nor is it known to what extent parasite populations infecting humans acquire novel ACG genotypes from S. japonicum populations infecting other mammalian hosts. By using archived parasite material, integrating molecular techniques, genomics and in silico protein modelling approaches, this project aims to assess the variation and frequency of ACGs genotypes in S. japonicum populations infecting humans, and aims to identify any shared antigen variants between humans and other mammals. Alongside uncovering some of the underlying causes of reduced vaccine efficacy, my project will begin to develop a foundation to assess the validity of potential vaccine targets against human schistosomiasis.

  • Research degree: PhD
  • Title of project: Are humans an antigenic sink for schistosomes? The evolution and molecular epidemiology of antigenic variation in vaccine targets against Schistosoma japonicum
  • Research supervisor: Dr Scott Lawton
  • Other research supervisor: Professor Tony Walker

Biography

Previous work includes elucidating the divergence of mitochondrial genomes of the zoonotic tropical liver fluke Fasciola gigantica from Africa and Asia in order to assess its current taxonomic position, and the genetic diversity exhibited across their mitochondrial genomes

Studying the impact of trematode diversity on the monitoring of Schistosoma mansoni transmission in aquatic environments in Tanzania, conducted at the Natural History Museum, where I was involved in the SCAN and WISER research projects to support ground-breaking research

I am particularly interested in the One Health concept, thereby taking a holistic approach to parasite control and treatment that involves the research of veterinary and human disease manifestations in order to better understand them both. My background has provided me with a strong interest in pathogen genomics and how we can elucidate disease emergence and transmission, as well as better treatment and control opportunities from analysing the genetic material of parasites. 

Areas of research interest

  • Molecular epidemiology
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Medical & veterinary parasitology
  • Infectious diseases
  • Genetics

Qualifications

  • BSc in Genetics and Molecular biology - Kingston University (2014 - 2018)
  • MSc in Medical Parasitology - The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (2018 - 2019)

Publications

Lawton, S. P., Jones, B. P., Awharitoma, A. O., Al-Aziz, S. A., Catalano, S., Collins, E., Leger, E., Parsons, D. A. J, Nelson, J., Webster, J. P. Divergence of mitochondrial genomes of the zoonotic tropical liver fluke Fasciola gigantica from Africa and Asia. – Awaiting imminent submission to Scientific Reports

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