Dr Matthew Berriman awarded the 2017 CA Wright Medal

It is with pleasure that the British Society of Parasitology announces that Dr Matthew Berriman will be the recipient of the 2017 C.A. Wright Medal.

The C.A. Wright Medal is awarded on the basis of an individual’s outstanding contribution to the field of parasitology.  Dr Berriman, a senior group leader within the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, has played a leading role in the sequencing of genomes from protozoan and helminthic parasites as well as the application of these data in the study of parasite biology, genetics, evolution and adaptation to parasitism.  This research has proven transformational in the field of parasitology.  The award of the C.A. Wright Medal recognises the impact of Dr Berriman’s research in placing British parasitology at the forefront of international efforts to tackle the health burden attributed to parasitic disease.

The award of the C.A. Wright Medal will take place during the Society’s 2017 Spring Symposium to be held in Dundee, with Dr Berriman providing a plenary talk on his research at the opening of the symposium on April 2nd.

Parasitism on the BBC

The 'In Our Time' Programme is now available on iPlayer.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discussed the relationship between parasites and hosts, where one species lives on or in another to the benefit of the parasite but at a cost to the host, potentially leading to disease or death of the host. Typical examples are mistletoe and trees, hookworms and vertebrates, cuckoos and other birds. In many cases the parasite species do so well in or on a particular host that they reproduce much faster and can adapt to changes more efficiently, and it is thought that almost half of all animal species have a parasitic stage in their lifetime. What techniques do hosts have to counter the parasites, and what impact do parasites have on the evolution of their hosts?

Guests were Steve Jones, Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College, London; Wendy Gibson BSP Member and Professor of Protozoology at the University of Bristol; and Kayla King, Associate Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford.

Report from BSP Travel Award Recipient Sara Silva Pereira

A field report from Kenya by Liverpool PhD student Sara Silva Pereira, who was funded by a BSP International Training and Fieldwork Award.

Finding Trypanosoma congolense in Busia, Western Kenya

I was starting the second year of my PhD when my supervisor suggested a trip to Kenya to collect blood samples from cattle naturally infected with Trypanosoma congolense. I finally made it there in the beginning of my final year for a month-long stay.

Animal African Trypanosomiasis is an endemic disease in 37 sub-Saharan countries that has a significant negative effect on both animal health and livestock productivity. It is caused by trypanosome blood parasites (Trypanosoma spp.), transmitted by the bite of tsetse flies (Glossina spp.), and can result in substantial anaemia, weight loss and ultimately death of the infected animal. Efforts to develop effective prophylaxis have been undermined by the mechanism of antigenic variation, employed by the parasite for immune evasion. Antigenic variation is characterised by the sequential substitution of cell surface antigens, compromising the effectivity of an antibody-based response and thus leading to chronic infection and transmission likelihood.

In this project, I was lucky enough to work within the DVS-ILRI laboratory in Busia, which is part of a collaboration between the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the University of Liverpool through Professor Eric Fèvre. There, the veterinary surgeon Dr Maseno Cléophas was ready to coordinate and assist the project.

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Sara making blood smears from an infected cow

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The DVS/ILRI lab in Busia

We screened 900 cows in all sub-counties for trypanosomiasis by microscopic analysis of thin blood smears and high centrifugation technique. We collected blood from each positive animal every week, for 4 weeks, and purified the parasites from the blood using a DEAE cellulose column. From the recovered parasites, we extracted nucleic acids and protein, which will be used to identify and quantify transiently-expressed antigen genes and to identify the active cell surface antigen, in an attempt to better understand the relationship between genetics and antigenic switching in natural infections. At the end of the project, the animals involved were treated for trypanosomiasis and all animals screened were dewormed and given multivitamin supplements.

The most difficult part of the project was logistics. Simple things like getting a car to work in the morning, getting the farmers to pick up the phone so we could find them and the animals, having electricity to run the centrifuge, and of course, the dirt roads often flooded by overnight rains. On the bright side, I don’t think I’ll get car sick in Europe anymore! As the locals were constantly reminding me, “This is the real Kenya” and, with all its peculiarities, it is a magnificent country indeed.

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It wasn’t all work. On the second weekend, I did manage to escape to a beautiful cottage house in Kericho, where I met people from ILRI working in Nairobi. I got to ride a horse, see a waterfall and walk through sugar cane plantations praying silently not to find snakes. The remaining weekends were spent catching up on my book waiting list and, of course, sunbathing in the nearby hotel swimming pool with the local children.

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Through the International Training and Fieldwork Award, the BSP has allowed me to personally witness the difficulties and rewards of field work in remote areas, including all the logistics; to have a better understanding on how farming works in Kenya; and to further develop people and laboratory skills that would not be possible in the comfort of our highly-equipped institute in Liverpool. More importantly, the BSP and the BBSRC, who funded the rest of the project, have allowed the collection of precious materials that will be used to understand antigen-switching patterns in natural infections as well as to show an application for a variant antigen profiling methodology we have developed in the first years of my PhD. For all of this, I am deeply grateful.

-Sara Silva Pereira, Post-graduate student, Department of Infection Biology, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool

Prof Keith Vickerman: Memorial Service in Glasgow

Prof Keith Vickerman died on 28th June 2016. The funeral was mainly for family and a few close colleagues, and it was agreed that a later memorial event would be appropriate.  It has now been arranged that this event will be in the Memorial Chapel, University of Glasgow on 21st March, 2017, from 2pm with refreshments to follow the proceedings.

Keith Vickerman was a leading world authority on sleeping sickness and was Regius Professor of Zoology at the University of Glasgow.  His obituary can be found here.

We are asking people who knew Keith to let us know if they plan to attend the memorial, and to let others know about it. Please email Lorna.Kennedy@glasgow.ac.uk if you plan to attend. If anyone cannot attend, but would like to send a message about Keith, please also send this to Lorna.

Remember to get your nominations in for the 2017 BSP Wright Medal

Deadline for nominations this year: 10th February 2017.

Every year BSP members nominate a parasitologist within the society to recognise their outstanding contribution to the discipline of parasitology. The recipient is a scientist in mid-career who, it is considered, will confirm their already outstanding achievements to become a truly distinguished future leader of their field. This sentiment is in keeping with the encouragement of younger parasitologists by Chris Wright, Director of the Experimental Taxonomy Unit at the Natural History Museum, London, UK and the Society's President at the time of his untimely death in 1983, and in whose memory a commemorative medal was instigated.

For further information and specific details on how to nominate please see here.

We look forward to receiving your nominations soon!

Parasitology Journal seeks Review Articles

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The BSP's partner journal, Parasitology, is soliciting review articles from BSP members. Reviews can be on any topic that interests you within the journal’s broad scope.  If you, or any of your parasitologist colleagues or students, have any ideas, please contact BSP councillor Dr Paul McVeigh, who is on the Editorial Board.  Deadlines are open for discussion; at the initial stage he would need only a prospective title and author.

Report from BSP Travel Award Recipient Eve Hanks

A field report from Leiden by Glasgow PhD student Eve Hanks, who was funded by a BSP International Training and Fieldwork Award.

Going Dutch

The first year of my PhD has been focused on understanding the protective immunity conferred to sheep when vaccinated with Barbervax ® against the parasitic nematode Haemonchus contortus. Working at the University of Glasgow and in conjunction with Moredun Research Institute, it had become clear that the majority of antibodies generated following vaccination were anti-glycan antibodies. This led to my trip to Leiden to work at the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) with Dr C.H. Hokke and his team to attempt to categorise the glycan content of Barbervax  and determine the antigenicity of each component when incubated with sheep sera.

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Leiden University Medical Centre

I found myself in a truly international office known as the aquarium. PhD students from several countries with similar interests were a great source of knowledge for me and new friendships were made. Most of the current glycan work has a human focus, I was the only veterinary researcher.

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I was very fortunate to be able to make use of the new glycan array technologies developed at LUMC. This is the first time that the glycan content of the Barbervax has been analysed to this extent. Having the ability to extract glycans from the native vaccination preparation and probe these arrays with the sera from a wide range of vaccinated sheep from pen and field trials was really valuable. This allowed us to compare anti-glycan antibodies across a cross section of sheep at a set time point and also longitudinally comparing lambs, yearlings and ewes as they moved through the trials. These data will hopefully aid in the understanding of the effectiveness of Barbervax in the face of failure of recombinant protein vaccine attempts. Although further analysis is required, it has been a rewarding trip which has generated novel data specific to H. contortus and the Barbervax vaccination, and will form part of my thesis.

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Having never visited The Netherlands before I made full use of my free time with trips to Amsterdam and The Hague. I travelled to Cologne to run in the half marathon race and visited Ghent and Antwerp also. During my time at LUMC I was lucky enough to be living by the sea and with unseasonable warm weather this was a perfect location.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the BSP for the travel award and to LUMC and all the staff and students who made this experience so rewarding and memorable.

Eve Hanks 16/10/16

New photography project: ‘Invisible Asia-Pacific Malaria’

People who live with malaria in the Asia-Pacific are often invisible – a new exhibition of photographs by Pearl Gan introduces us to these invisible people, giving them flesh, blood, feelings, and lives.

Most of us think of malaria as an African problem, a likely consequence of the widespread poverty, geographic isolation, chronic conflicts, and poor economic development of much of that continent. In the Asia-Pacific, in contrast, we have booming economies, hundreds of millions being lifted out of poverty, incredible transportation and telecommunications links, and relative peace and political stability. Among the 20 most powerful national economies in the influential G20, six are in the Asia-Pacific. Asia-Pacific schools produce students representing nations that consistently fill the top 5 rankings in abilities in mathematics, reading, and science. Despite the long march of extraordinary progress out of regional poverty and conflict, malaria in the Asia-Pacific remains a very significant public health threat and burden. Over 2 billion Asians live at risk of endemic malaria, many tens of millions are infected (perhaps as many as several hundred million) each year and tens of thousands of those do not survive (perhaps as many as several hundred thousand). We cannot be sure of those numbers because the people who live with malaria in the Asia-Pacific are invisible – the most isolated, poor, and voiceless. This exhibition is about them. Pearl Gan’s artistry introduces us to these invisible people, giving them flesh, blood, feelings, and lives.

Prof Kevin Baird, Head of the Eijkman Oxford Clinical Research Unit (EOCRU) Jakarta

The Exhibition will be on from 2 to 29 September 2017 at the National Library Board, 100 Victoria Street S 188064, Singapore. You can email Pearl at asiamalariaimages@gmail.comfor more information

Photos are copyright Pearl Gan in association with Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU), Eijkman Oxford Clinical Research Unit (EOCRU) and The Wellcome Trust.

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Resources available from ‘Silent Signal’, a biomedical science communication project

Silent Signal is a Wellcome-Trust-funded biomedical science communication project. As part of the project’s legacy, a bank of free resources is available for those working in STEM outreach and education.

All the activities are curriculum linked, free to download and available to everyone.  The resources complement six digital films, covering a wide range of biomedical themes that are applicable to parasitology. In particular AfterGlow deals with Malaria and Battle of Blister deals with inflammation, while Immune Craft explores immune learning, function and memory.  The activities include curiosity-driven tabletop exercises to introduce the topics and promote informal learning, and then a lead discussion to promote debate into the cultural, societal and ethical considerations of biomedical research.

All the project information can be found at silentsignal.org and the educational resources can be found here.

Upcoming BSP Meetings

Dates for the diary in 2017 and 2018.

The BSP Spring Meeting in 2017 will be held at Dundee University, 2-5th April. Local organiser Prof. Mark Field.

The 2017 Autumn Symposium will be a 1-day event held in London on 15th Sept in association with the Linnean society. Local organisers Dr Bonnie Webster and Prof Russ Stothard.

The 2018 BSP Spring Meeting will be held at Aberystwyth University, 8-11th April. Local organiser Dr Justin Pachebat.