Canine and feline leishmaniasis in Israel: relationship to human leishmaniasis, risk factors and drug resistance

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This joint PhD project will be based at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with a 12-month stay at the University of Melbourne.

Project Description:

The leishmaniases are a group of diseases caused by Leishmania species that inflict three disease forms in humans: cutaneous, mucocutaneous and the fatal visceral leishmaniasis. Almost all species of Leishmania are zoonotic and have animal reservoirs, including the three species known to cause disease in Israel, Leishmania infantum, Leishmania tropica and Leishmania major, all transmitted by sand flies.

The dog is the main reservoir for L. infantum and can also harbour L. tropica and L. major infections. Domestic cats have also been documented to be infected with these species. Furthermore, co-infections with other vector-borne pathogens have been shown to influence the course of Leishmania infection in dogs and cats and may therefore be important risk factors for the establishment and progression of this infection and further dissemination to other animals and humans.

Such co-infections include ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, mycoplasmosis, anaplasmosis, hepatozoonosis and viral infections. These agents, as well as leishmaniasis, are either a potential threat to establishing in Australia, or have already become endemic in it.

Project goals

  • Map Leishmania spp. infection in dogs and cats in Israel and to evaluate environmental risk factors for this infection and the influence of co-infection of the disease.
  • Study drug resistance in Leishmania isolates from animals in Israel, as a risk factor for the spread of the disease. The Baneth lab has described and characterized resistance to allopurinol, the main drug used for treatment of canine leishmaniasis worldwide.
  • Evaluation of the different risk factors for leishmaniasis, its association with the human disease using data on notifiable diseases from the Israeli Ministry of Health, and analysis of infection for drug resistance using molecular techniques developed in the Baneth lab.

Supervision team

Professor Gad Baneth (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Professor Rebecca Traub and Dr Vito Colella (University of Melbourne)

Skills and requirements:

  • Demonstrated experience in the field of Veterinary Medicine
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and as part of the team
  • Demonstrated time and project management skills
  • Demonstrated ability to write research reports or other publications to a publishable standard (even if not published to date)

Further details:

The PhD candidate will benefit from the combined expertise of the project supervisors, and the embedding into two research environments.

Professor Rebecca Traub and Dr Vito Colella at the University of Melbourne will contribute expertise in next-generation sequencing-based diagnostics for pathogen detection and characterisation. Professor Gad Baneth at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will contribute expertise in clinical

The candidate will be enrolled in the PhD program at the Melbourne Veterinary School at the University of Melbourne and in the PhD program at the Koret School of Veterinary Medicine at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

To apply for this joint PhD opportunity, and to view the entry requirements, visit How to apply.

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