The Malaria and NTD Directorate of the Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI) would like to recruit two PhD students. The PhD projects will be supported by the African Centre for hrp2/3 Deletion Surveillance (ACHIDES) project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The umbrella project, ACHIDES, will be conducted in 19 sites/districts in 8 administrative regions of Ethiopia with the aim to estimate the prevalence of P. falciparum parasites with hrp2/3 deletion. Parasite density and frequency of pfhrp2/3 gene deletions will be determined using an innovative novel method based on droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) technology. To this aim, a lab will be established at the AHRI site in Adama.
PhD students will support sample collection and analysis for, and develop their own research questions within the ACHIDES project. They will have access to samples and data from all sites, and the laboratory infrastructure at AHRI. Students will be co-supervised by Dr. Fitsum G Tadesse at AHRI and Dr. Cristian Koepfli at the University of Notre Dame in the USA.
Tentative Project Titles
- The sensitivity and specificity of different tools for malaria diagnosis
We will enrol suspected (febrile) malaria patients in different sites and compare different types of rapid diagnostic tests, local and expert microscopy, and novel tools for diagnosis. In the lab, we will screen all samples by sensitive qPCR and ddPCR. In the first step, this project will focus on the optimal tool for diagnosis of clinical malaria in Ethiopia. In the second step, we aim to understand how the proportion of subpatent infections differs between sites of different transmission intensity among febrile patients, and to identify risk factors for false-negative malaria diagnosis (e.g. age groups, occupation, etc.). Even when hrp2 is not deleted, RDTs might be false-negative because of low expression of the HRP2 protein. In this project, we will measure proteins levels using innovative LUMINEX technology to understand the relationship between parasite density and protein levels, and to better understand reasons for false-negative RDTs. We will also investigate if protein quantification is a meaningful alternative for hrp2 deletion surveillance.
- Molecular approach to explore multiplicity of infections and markers of drug resistance
In this project, we aim to assess the relationship between multiplicity of infection and transmission intensity in clinical cases for both P. falciparum and P. vivax across Ethiopia using samples obtained from the different study sites of the ACHIDES project. Multiplicity of infections affects estimates of hrp2 deletion and of the frequency of drug resistance mutations. We will conduct msp2 genotyping on samples collected in different sites in Ethiopia, and investigate how measures of multiplicity change with transmission intensity, across seasons, and with age. Along the same line, molecular markers of drug resistance will be evaluated in samples obtained from treatment efficacy studies (TES) that AHRI has been running in the last couple of years. Copy number variations of Plasmepsin and the multidrug resistance transporter 1 (mdr1) gene are associated with resistance against several antimalarial drugs. We will use innovative droplet digital PCR assays to measure copy number variations in isolates collected across Ethiopia, and thus add surveillance of drug resistance in the country. In addition, length polymorphism genotyping techniques and/or targeted amplicon
sequencing to monitor known/novel drug resistance markers will be implemented together with microsatellite genotyping or targeted amplicon sequencing to differentiate the causes of recurrent infections.
The studentship will typically be for three to four years and the project will be active starting from the date of acceptance. We are seeking for motivated PhD students from Ethiopian Universities who have completed their courses to work together based on the AHRI graduate studentship guidelines.
Value of studentship
The value of studentship covers all the research costs and a stipend that will be paid on a monthly basis from the project. There will not be additional payment (per-diem) for field work.
Eligibility criteria: Criteria slightly varies for the two PhD positions
- Applicants should hold Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences. The PhD students must be currently registered in one of the Universities in Ethiopia and completed the course work of their PhD program.
- Applicants should hold Master’s degree in Bioinformatics, Biotechnology, Genetics, or highly related fields. The PhD students must be currently registered in the field of Biotechnology/Genetics/Bioinformatics in one of the Universities in Ethiopia and completed the course work of their PhD program.
How to apply
Application should be done through an online submission at
During application, the following documents are required.
- Copies of your BSc and MSc degree and academic records
- A cover letter and CV, including full contact details of your referees (work address, phone number, email address, POBox)
- Statement of Motivation
Note: Female candidates are strongly encouraged to apply
Application closing date: Ten working days after the date of advertisement