Developing a drug screening platform for gregarines infecting shrimps

University of Kent
June 19, 2023
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Scholarship value

This is funded by the University of Kent and Skretting for 3 years. The stipend paid equals the full UK Research Council rate of £18, 622 (rate for 2023/24) plus tuition fees at the Home rate. International applicants should make provision to meet the difference between Home and International fees


Monday 19 June 2023, 23:59 BST


We are seeking a highly motivated individual, excited by the prospect of conducting cutting-edge research, with a minimum of 2:1 degree and/or a postgraduate degree in a relevant subject. She/he will have a strong willingness to work at the interface of wet-lab and fieldwork and demonstrate enthusiasm to learn new skills. Informal enquiries can be addressed to Dr Anastasios Tsaousis: [email protected]

Further details

Project title: Developing a drug screening platform for gregarines infecting shrimps

Supervisors: Dr Anastasios Tsaousis, Dr Jerome Korzelius (University of Kent), Prof. Sonja Rueckert (University of Duisburg-Essen)

Project outline:

In collaboration with Skretting in Norway and Prof. Sonja Rueckert (University of Duisburg-Essen) we have a fully funded PhD studentship that will be based at the School of Biosciences at the University of Kent and is led by Dr Anastasios Tsaousis (https: // www.

Shrimp farming has been vastly established in the past century across Asia and there is high demand on international markets. As with any intensification of farming diseases can become a problem. The most devastating disease of shrimp are caused by viruses, e.g. baculovirus, and by microbial eukaryotes such as gregarines. Gregarine apicomplexans infect almost all invertebrates and are highly abundant across ecosystems (Rueckert et al. 2011; de Vargas et al. 2015; Cleary & Durbin 2016; Lentendu et al. 2018). The early diverging gregarines span the whole range of symbiosis from mutualism to parasitism (Rueckert et al. 2019) and thus are critical links in the evolution of symbiosis in the apicomplexans. Several species species of gregarine apicomplexans have been described in shrimps, but currently, these organisms cannot be cultured outside their hosts. In order to test or develop any drugs against these protistan parasites, in vitro and in vivo systems need to be developed.

Aim: This project should provide baseline data and trials to develop a shrimp intestinal cell culture for drug screening against parasitic protists infecting shrimp. The student will develop invertebrate cell cultures using tissues from various gut areas of these invertebrate hosts. This approach will be assessed by infecting the host cells with the target species and monitor the success of gregarine development and propagation using an in-house automated microscopy system, under controlled atmospheric conditions. After developing the system, the student will aim to screen various compounds and visualise their effects in either the propagation and the interactions with the hosts.


Cleary & Durbin (2016) Unexpected prevalence of parasite 18S rDNA sequences in winter among Antarctic marine protists. J. Plankton Res., 38(3):401-417

De Vargas et al. (2015) Ocean plankton. Eukaryotic plankton diversity in the sunlit ocean. Science, 348: 1261605

Janouškovec et al. (2019) Apicomplexan-like parasites are polyphyletic and widely but selectively dependent on cryptic plastid organelles. eLife, 8: e49662

Lentendu et al. (2018) Consistent patterns of high alpha and low beta diversity in tropical parasitic and free-living protists. Mol. Ecol., 27(13): 2846-2857

Rueckert & Horák (2017) Archigregarines of the English Channel revisited: new molecular data on Selenidium species including early described and new species and the uncertainties of phylogenetic relationships. PLoS One, 12: e0187430

Rueckert S, Betts EL, Tsaousis AD. The Symbiotic Spectrum: Where Do the Gregarines Fit? Trends Parasitol. 2019 Sep;35(9):687-694.

How to apply

Learn more about the application process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.

Apply for entry to:

  • Microbiology - PhD - full-time at Canterbury
  • The project title should be entered as the proposed area of research and Dr Anastasios Tsaousis as supervisor. Please include a CV, references, qualification documents and outline your reasons for choosing this project.

    Applications must be received by 19th of June 2023. Interviews will take place on the 28th of June 2023. The start date is 18th of September 2023.

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