Supervisors: Dr Virginia Marugan-Hernandez and Professor Fiona Tomley

Department: Pathobiology and Population Sciences

Project Details

Variations in Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) genes are highly associated with genetic resistance or susceptibility to several diseases, including coccidiosis. Chicken coccidiosis is ubiquitous and estimated to incur high costs of £10.4 billion per annum to chicken producers. This enteric disease is caused by seven protozoa species of the genus Eimeria (Apicomplexa). Control relies mostly on prophylaxis with in-feed drugs and live vaccination programmes, which are well established in breeding and laying hens, but the high production costs is a serious impairment to expanding them in the broiler (meat) sector. There is need for new affordable and sustainable anticoccidial vaccines for the mass poultry market.

We propose a new approach for antigen discovery based in the hypothesis that recombinant vaccines containing peptides presented to the host by MHCs will confer immunity against Eimeria re-infection. The main aim of this project is to evaluate the suitability of different immortalised cells line with different MHC haplotypes to support Eimeria infections and how this affected the MHC class I/II surface expression to allow the future identification of MHCs binding immuno-peptides.


  1. BRILES, W. E.; BRILES, R. W. 1982. Identification of haplotypes of the chicken major histocompatibility complex (B). Immunogenetics, v. 15, n. 5, p. 449-59

  2. BURRELL, A. et al. 2020. Life cycle stages, specific organelles and invasion mechanisms of Eimeria species. Parasitology, v. 147, n. 3, p. 263-278

  3. MARUGAN-HERNANDEZ, V et al. 2020. Characterization and Application of Quantitative Methods to Assess Sporozoite Invasion and Endogenous Development in Cell Culture. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 10:579833



  • Must meet our standard MRes entry requirements.
  • Applicants must hold a degree in a relevant subject to develop the project (e.g. biology, biochemistry, infectious diseases, immunology, veterinary medicine, bioveterinary sciences).


  • Experience in cell culture

This can be taken as a full-time or part-time (12months FTE) project commencing in October 2023, based at RVC's Hawkshead campus.

Eventual work with animals (chickens) will be necessary for the generation of wild type Eimeria stocks.


Partially funded: the lab will be covering some of the project costs, and the MRes student will be expected to cover the course fees and their living expenses.

International applicants are welcome to apply but must be able to fund the difference between "Home" and "Overseas" tuition fees.

You can find information on fees and funding online. postgraduate master's loan may be available to help cover costs.

How to Apply

For more information on the application process and English Language requirements see How to Apply.

Deadline: 26th March 2023

We welcome informal enquiries - these should be directed to

Interview date and location: TBC (May 2023)

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