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BL775 - Molecular & Cellular Biology of Tropical Diseases & Vectors


12 January - 6 February 2015


Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine



To register - please complete the short course application form and email to the Professional Short Courses Unit at or Tel: 0151 705 3172 /3753 /3754

Programme Introduction
This course aims to provide students with knowledge and critical understanding of the molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry of eukaryotic parasites and their vectors.

Topics will be taught through formal lectures to convey essential concepts and factual information, guided reading to explore topics in greater depth, interactive tutorials to develop critical understanding, student seminars to re-inforce learning outcomes and gain practice in presentational skills, and practical sessions to gain technical competance and to illustrate important concepts in action.

Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Discuss the importance of differences in the molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry of eukaryotic parasites from those of their vectors and mammalian hosts
  2. Identify the unique adaptations of parasites and critically review their importance in survival and completion of their life cycles
  3. Critically review the exploitation of biochemical differences between parasites and their hosts in relation to parasite chemotherapy and vaccine research
  4. Apply a range of techniques in molecular cell biology and critically interpret the outcomes

Who Should Attend
People who require an update and to gain technical competence on the essentials of molecular and cellular biology.

A knowledge of Parasitology and Vector Biology is required.

Overseas students - if you require a visa to enter the UK, please find visa information on the links below:


A Complete Learning Package


Course Outline

  • The use of recombinant DNA technology, molecular cell biology and biochemical techniques as research tools in parasitology and vector biology.
  • Surface antigens of parasites and their role in invasion and survival in mammalian hosts.
  • The molecular and biochemical basis of antigenic variation and antigenic diversity in protozoan parasites.
  • Surface membrane enzymes and transporters and their role in acquisition of nutrients by parasites.
  • Invasion and survival of intracellular parasites.
  • Survival and development of parasites in their arthropod vectors and parasite/vector interaction.
  • Unique biochemical pathways found in parasites and their potential for exploitation as chemotherapeutic targets; empirical and rational drug design.
  • Molecular and developmental biology of insects and other vectors.
  • Molecular basis of insecticide resistance in vectors.
  • Molecular and developmental biology of helminth parasites; structure and function of the surface membrane/cuticle.
  • Unusual features of gene organisation and regulation in kinetoplastid parasites.
  • Organelles and subcellular compartments in parasites.

Course Lecturers include:
Please click on the name of the Academic to view their full profile.

Professor Russell Stothard

Russell hopes to address important questions concerning the molecular evolution and spatial epidemiology of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), with primary focus upon schistosomiasis (Schistosoma spp. and planorbid snails) and its control with preventive chemotherapy. Secondary interests include studies on the molecular evolution and epidemiology of soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH), liver flukes (Fasciola spp. and lymnaeid snails) and various protozoan diseases (trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis and malaria). Developing better point-of-care and field-based diagnostics is also an important objective.

He graduated from Leeds University in 1991 with joint BSc degree in Zoology & Microbiology and whilst at Leeds he undertook two scientific expeditions to Tanzania and Pakistan. These missions helped him later solidify his interests in combining field studies with those in the laboratory and understand the importance of meticulous expedition planning. In 1992, he graduated from the University of York with a MSc degree in Biological Computation having had a summer placement at the Sea Mammal Research Unit (British Antarctic Survey) on modelling the population dynamics of phocine distemper virus in common seals. To gain molecular genetic experience, Russell obtained his PhD from Imperial College London in 1995 in developing molecular probes to assay biodiversity within the intermediate snail host Bulinus and assess its interplay with Schistosoma haematobium. This work took place under the supervision of Dr David Rollinson at the Natural History Museum and later led to the award of the 2004 Bicentenary Medal from the Linnean Society of London and several other projects based in East Africa with Professors Alan Fenwick (SCI), Thomas Kristensen (CONTRAST) & Dan Colley (SCORE).

Professor Rob Harrison (Senior Lecturer, Head of Alistair Reid Venom Research Unit)
Rob Harrison graduated in Zoology from Nottingham University (1977) and obtained his MSc (Medical Parasitology, 1978) and PhD (Helminthology, 1981) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. His interest in developing schistosome vaccines took him first to the Wellcome Trust Research Laboratory in Nairobi, Kenya, followed by a Wellcome Trust Advanced Training Fellowship in San Francisco (1984-1988) and then to the US Navy Medical Research Unit 3 in Cairo Egypt. He joined the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in 1994 on a project pioneering the use of DNA vaccination to engender protective immunity against Onchocerca volvulus and has, since 2000, focussed on snake venom research.

Professor Hilary Ranson (Professor in Medical Entomology; Head of Vector Biology)

I obtained a BSc in Biology from the University of York (1991) an MSc in Medical Parasitology from LSHTM (1992) and a PhD in Molecular Entomology from Cardiff University (1996). A Wellcome Trust International Travelling Fellowship took me to the University of Notre Dame, USA for two years. This was followed by a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship, held at Cardiff University and subsequently transferred to LSTM in 2001. I spent a brief period at Imperial College London from 2005 to 2006 and then returned to the Vector Group at LSTM in 2007.

Research activities encompass various aspects related to the control of mosquito vectors of human disease. I have a particular interest in the causes and consequences of insecticide resistance and my group have been using a variety of molecular approaches to study the mechanisms of insecticide resistance in Anopheles and Aedes mosquitoes. Field studies are exploring the impact of this resistance on malaria and dengue control programmes. I was coordinator of the TDR network on study insecticide resistance in African malaria vectors from 2008-2011. This network consisted of LSTM and partners in six African countries and developed a set of standardised protocols for vector population monitoring and for determining the levels of insecticide susceptibility in sentinel sites in each country, in addition to conducting more detailed research into resistance mechanisms.

Professor Alistair Craig (Chair of Molecular Parasitology)
Alister Craig graduated in Genetics from Edinburgh University in 1981 and obtained his PhD in Molecular Biology from Leicester University in 1984. He spent the next two years as an EMBO Fellow at EMBL in Heidelberg followed by two years as an ICRF Fellow in London working on developing techniques for genome analysis. He subsequently worked for ten years at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford on malaria before joining the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in 1999 (joint appointment with the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics).

Professor Mike Lehane (Professor of Molecular Entomology and Parasitology)
After post-doctoral positions in the LSHTM I worked in the University of Wales, Bangor before joining the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in 2004.

My research area includes the laboratory based studies of our research group, centred primarily on investigations of vector parasite interactions. Currently our major effort is investigating tsetse fly trypanosome interactions and especially the factors determining the ability of trypanosomes to become established in the tsetse fly midgut. In addition to our laboratory studies large scale field studies are underway funded from the European Commission and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This work centres on the production of improved odour traps for tsetse flies and on studies on population genetics of tsetse flies - an essential component of large scale control operations. These field studies are being carried out in collaboration with colleagues in Europe, Kenya, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire and Zimbabwe.

Dr Mark Paine

Mark graduated in Genetics from Wits University, Johannesburg in 1983. In 1990 he obtained his PhD for research on the molecular biology of viper venoms from LSTM. In 1993 he moved to the University of Dundee Biomedical Research Centre to work on molecular aspects of human drug metabolising enzymes. In 2006 he swapped man for mosquitoes and returned to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to work on the related chemical detoxification mechanisms of insects, and the problem of insecticide resistance. Areas of interest: Molecular understanding of detoxification mechanisms in insect vectors and development of new reagents to overcome insecticide resistance.

Dr Simon Wagstaff
Simon Wagstaff graduated in Biochemistry from Bath University in 1994 and obtained his PhD from Liverpool University in 1998. He then worked on the identification and commercialisation of novel markers of skeletal remodelling and on the molecular mechanisms underpinning skeletal remodelling and tumour proliferation. Following a teaching break from full-time research, he joined the Alistair Reid Venom Research Unit, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, in 2004 to work on an exciting new research program exploiting 'omics' technologies to improve the understanding and treatment of snake envenoming.

Dr Amy Lynd

Amy Lynd obtained a BSc in Genetics from the University of Liverpool in 1998 and an MSc in Sustainable Rural Development in the Tropics from Edinburgh University in 1999. She has recently completed a PhD at the LSTM investigating the behavioural and evolutionary responses of Anopheles gambiae s.s. to insecticide treated bednets. She is currently working as a post-doctoral research assistant with Dr. Gareth Lycett in the Vector Group. My current research is focused on determining the role of specific Anopheles gambiae genes involved in the immune response to the malaria parasite, Plasmodium, and on the development of a tissue specific expression system in transgenic Anopheles gambiae.

Dr Gareth Lycett

Trained at Surrey University and LSTM. Post-doctoral and Fellowship positions at the Institute of Parasitology, University of Rome (93-94), the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in Crete (96-00 and 2004-2006), and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany (2001-2004). He is a recently appointed vector molecular biologist whose main interests are focused on functional genetic analysis of Anopheles gambiae. The topics to be further explored include cellular and molecular analysis of mosquito/plasmodium interactions, developing tools for conditional expression in transgenic Anophelines, regulation of gene expression in mosquito midgut and salivary glands, and functional genetic analysis of insecticide resistance.

Dr James Lacourse

I moved to University of Liverpool (UoL) in 2006 after several years at University of Wales, Aberystwyth where I completed a BSc (Hons. First Class) in Biochemistry, my PhD studies and postdoctoral work investigating helminth Phase II detoxification enzymes via biochemical, RNAi and proteomic technologies. These studies yielded the first publication combining proteomic technologies and image analysis to quantify proteins levels following suppression of key drug detoxification genes via RNA interference in a helminth. I continued helminth detoxification studies at UoL through post-doctoral work within a major consortium of groups ranging from across Europe to South America, studying drug resistance of the globally distributed zoonotic liver fluke Fasciola hepatica.

In early 2008, I began a lectureship in Veterinary Parasitology at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, relocating later that year to a lectureship at the School of Veterinary Science at UoL to gain further opportunities to study other parasites including filarial nematodes, their endosymbiotic bacteria and tropical fluke. Over the last four years, I have set up a fluke website at the UoL (, am collaborating with Dr Paterson at UoL in analysing the current F. hepatica next-generation genomic and transcriptomic dataset, and have optimised proteomic methods to investigate drug resistance in F. hepatica. Further work also revealed a previously undiscovered protein in F. hepatica and the related F. gigantica parasite that has shown promise as a vaccine candidate in early trials, as well as an in vitro biochemically functional profile suggesting involvement in host immune system modulation.

Dr Alvaro Acosta-Serrano

Álvaro graduated with a joint degree in Education and Biology from the Catholic University of Caracas and the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC) (1991), under the supervision of Dr. Fabián Michelangeli. He then obtained a Doctor in Science degree in Molecular Parasitology at the Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil (1996), under the supervision of Prof. Sérgio Schenkman. During this period he also undertook research as a WHO/TDR visiting fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Mike Ferguson at the University of Dundee (Scotland). He then moved to the USA to work as a Post-doctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Paul Englund at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore. In 2000, he returned to Prof. Ferguson’s lab as a Wellcome Trust International Visiting Fellow and in 2003 moved to the University of Glasgow, supported by a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship. Álvaro joined the Tsetse Research Group (directed by Prof. Mike Lehane) at LSTM in 2008. In 2010, he was appointed to the Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology Group, in a position joined with the Vector Group.

Dr Naomi Dyer

2002-2006: PhD in the lab of Marcos Gonzalez-Gaitan, Dresden, Germany. Analysis of a Drosophila arf6 (membrane trafficking) mutant, and investigation of the role of membrane trafficking in spermatogenesis and cell division in Drosophila testes. Tsetse flies (genus Glossina) are the major vectors of human and African trypanosomiasis in sub-saharan Africa. Vector control strategies rely on knowledge about the vector. My work focuses on using molecular and morphological approaches to understand how many, what and where are the vector species, especially within the riverine (palpalis group) tsetse flies. This has allowed the design of a simple PCR based species diagnostic for morphologically similar species.


20 Academic Credits - Assessments

For an additional fee of £95, you can be entered for full Academic Credits for this course (awarded by the University of Liverpool). The assessments are:

50% Exam - Essay paper in which students will answer 3 questions from a choice of 6. (Exam date TBC)

The choice of questions offered will test the important concepts taught within the course as specified in the learning outcomes; the questions will vary in the specific examples that you can use to illustrate these concepts, rather than in the underlying concepts themselves

50% Written practical report (2,000 words). (Hand in online - date TBC)

Please note that assessments may change at the discretion of the Directors of Study. All students will be made aware of new assessment details. The academic credits are offered to provide choice and flexibility to all our students, and students who do not wish to be entered for academic credits will be awarded a Certificate of Attendance.