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£2.5M Wellcome Trust Investigator Award for Keith Matthews

Prof Keith Matthews, member of Edinburgh Infectious Diseases in the School of Biological Sciences, will receive £2.5M over the next 5 years to support research into the African trypanosomes that cause sleeping sickness in humans and animals.

Stumpy form of Trypanosomes
Bloodstream stumpy forms of the trypanosome parasite. Image courtesy of the Matthews lab.

Understanding sleeping sickness

African trypanosomes cause Human and Animal African trypanosomiasis.  Currently, human cases are declining but the livestock disease remains responsible for substantial economic hardship in sub-Saharan Africa.  The threat of disease spread from animals to humans for certain trypanosome species also remains significant, which makes further research essential.

Keith's new 5-year research programme – Quorum sensing in African trypanosomes – will explore how trypanosomes prepare for transmission by the tsetse fly vector.  The team will investigate the molecular mechanisms of developmental competence in laboratory and field isolates, and in different trypanosome species.

This work will build on the lab's recent characterisation of a parasite-density based mechanism (quorum-sensing) that trypanosomes use to optimise their spread.

Breaking the cycle of disease spread

One aim of the work is to understand the molecular basis of trypanosome development to inform new strategies that break the cycle of disease spread.

Keith MatthewsProfessor of Parasite Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh

In additional, the work will also help predict the emergence of parasites with life- history strategies favouring virulence or transmission.

The trypanosome quorum sensing pathway in trypanosomes also provides a very useful model system for understanding diverse signal transduction events in the related and important pathogens causing Chagas’ disease and Leishmaniasis.

Related links

Profile Keith Matthews

Matthews lab website