The N8 Parasitology Network addresses many key issues including the development of vaccines, diagnostic tools and drugs.
Led by Durham University and consisting of more than 40 academics and dozens of post-doctoral and PhD students, the network capitalises on the wealth of parasitology expertise within the N8 Research Partnership.
Parasitological research is a key strength of the N8 universities. This discipline is critically important, as recent estimates suggest that the majority of the world’s human population is harbouring one or more species of parasite at any one time – the nematode Ascaris lumbricoides alone is estimated to infect approximately 1000 million individuals. Overall, some 15 million people are estimated to die from infectious disease each year.
The overarching aim of N8 Parasitology Network is to combine strengths across the N8 universities in order to improve the prospects for high-quality, multi-disciplinary research, bringing together multiple disciplines across the range of parasites affecting both human and animal populations will create new insights and increased prospects for improvements in global health.
Other important roles of the network will be to promote parasitology as a research and teaching subject and to promote the outputs of N8 researchers to within and outside the academic community. The power of N8 will be used to contribute to UK and international research and policy agendas.
CURRENT RESEARCH IN N8 UNIVERSITIES
Major issues under investigation and currently being funded within the N8 universities include:
- Vaccine development - as there are still no vaccines available for any parasitic disease of humans;
- Drug development - as there is a limited portfolio of drugs available across the entire spectrum of infections
- The relationship between control policy and implementation
- The impact of climate change on exposure to parasites
- Transmission and policy adaptation for individual species in both animals and humans
- The development of new, sensitive and specific diagnostic tests
- The immunology and molecular biology of infection in both humans and animal hosts
- The impact of parasitism on the effectiveness of childhood vaccination
Major research currently funded within the N8 universities includes vaccine development, as there are still no vaccines available for any parasitic disease of humans; drug development, as there is a limited portfolio of drugs available across the entire spectrum of infections, as well as the relationship between control policy and implementation. Many other areas of research are covered within the N8 including the impact of parasites on childhood vaccination and the impact of climate change on exposure to parasites.
KEY ACTIVITIES OF THE NETWORK
The network brings together academic partners across the N8 in regular workshops to address how best to maximise the collaborative potential within the group. It is also exploring the commercial and international opportunities stemming from the activities of the N8 Parasitology researchers. This involves conversations with industrial partners - from SMEs to multi-national corporations. The opportunities for aligning research outputs with the International Development and Sustainable Environment agendas are also being explored. A pilot project linking two N8 labs with an industrial partner has been funded through the small-grants scheme operating within the network.
Research Director: Dr. Mark Booth (Deputy Director of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing, Durham University)