new positions/internships

Three years fully funded Phd at the University of Rouen Normandy with a co-joint supervision at the University of Nicosia working on Landscapes of disease: epidemiology of malaria & thalassemia in Cyprus”

 

  1. Position description

The French Research Center CNRS-UMR IDEES in Rouen in France (https://umr-idees.fr)  and the University of Nicosia in Cyprus (https://www.unic.ac.cy/) is looking for a PhD student who will be funded with a 3 years scholarship by the HIGH PASM project:

Your PhD will focus on:

You will contribute to the ongoing HIGH PASM (High-resolution Paleoclimate Archives & Societal vulnerability for the last Millennium in Cyprus) project that examines relationships between climate variations and the dynamic of diseases in Cyprus. The main objective is to investigate the emergence and re-emergence of human pathogens that present an opportunity to examine the evolution of pathogens across space and time in relation to interactions between populations and environmental drivers and to understand how human – environment interactions influence pathogenic characteristics.

  • You will carry out academic research in the domains of health geography, landscape ecology, and epidemiology
  • You will publish research results in academic publications
  • You will present research results at workshops and conferences

The Phd candidate will contribute to:

  1. Mapping and analysis of geographical variations of malaria in Cyprus during the first half of the 20thcentury.
  2. Explore the link between malaria and thalassemia geographical patterns.
  3. Understand the role of land use and landscape management in explaining geographical variations.
  4. Contribute to the interdisciplinary concept of landscape

 

  1. Profile – What do we expect from you?

You’ve attained a Master’ Degree in Geography, Human Ecology, or Epidemiology or related discipline. Ideally you should have knowledge in some of the following:

  • Statistics, mapping and Geographical Information System (GIS)
  • You have strong oral and written communication skills in English
  • A good knowledge of Greek is an advantage but not compulsory

 

  1. Offer

You will be offered a full-time PhD scholarship for 36 months with planned starting date at the end of October 2021.

Gross salary: 3290€

You will be based at the University of Rouen in France where the PhD scholarship is affiliated. You will spend at least 2 to 3 months per year at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus.

 

  1. Requirements

Applicants should submit the following items (in electronic form) through e-mail to:

Professor Emmanuel Eliot at emmanuel.eliot@univ-rouen.fr and Dr Iris Charalambidou at charalambidou.i@unic.ac.cy by 3 September 2021.

  • Your CV
  • Your letter of motivation (max. 500 words) expressing your interest in pursuing this PhD
  • The contact details of two referees
  • The highest degree you’ve attained

For further information, interested individuals may contact: Professor Emmanuel Eliot (University of Rouen) at emmanuel.eliot@univ-rouen.fr and Dr Iris Charalambidou (University of Nicosia) at charalambidou.i@unic.ac.cy

 

  1. Recruitment process

Interviews will be conducted online from 20 to 24 September 2021

 

  1. PhD project description

The emergence and re-emergence of human pathogens present an opportunity to examine the evolution of pathogens across space and time in relation to interactions between populations and environmental drivers and to understand how human – environment interactions influence pathogenic characteristics.

In Cyprus, malaria was endemic up to 1967 when the island was declared malaria free. Since the end of the 19th century, malaria was a major stake of colonial policy, and especially its eradication. (Shelley, H. and Aziz, M. 1949). Despite recent localized outbreaks (Emms H., 2020), the situation is under control now. Plasmodium, the parasite responsible for malaria, has been a powerful selective agent in the evolution of populations (Nau J-Y., 2008). At the end of the 19th century, malaria was endemic across one-third of the country, where 10% of the population lived, and two million hectares of land was not cultivated because of malaria (Dagen M., 2020).  Hemoglobinopathies are among the most frequent genetic diseases in the world. The link between malaria and alpha-and beta-thalassemia has been an object of scientific controversies since the beginning of the 20th century (Akide-Ndunge OB et al., 2003).

The coincidence between areas endemic to malaria and the protective effect of thalassemia on the severity of malaria infections has been difficult and long to explain (Weatherall., J, 2004). However, in long standing endemic malaria areas, high-thalassemia incidences and prevalences are recorded and seem to have a protective effect on malaria infections among populations. Cyprus reports today the highest prevalence of thalassemia in the world (Kyrri AR et al., 2013). Thalassemia causes the deletion of a gene for the globing protein that makes up hemoglobin. It is responsible for severe anemia in homozygous individuals but benign disorders in heterozygous individuals.

Epidemiological and molecular mechanisms have recently been documented for alpha (Fowkes FJ. Et al., 2008) and beta-thalassemia (Kazazian, H.H. and Boehm, C.D. 1988). Environmental conditions and management impact the clinical severity of bêta-thalassemia (Origa R., 2017) and the phenotype in patients (Musallam K.M. et al. 2013). Understanding the role of environmental factors and landscape changes in the spread of malaria in South Europe has been documented (Sallares R., 2006, during the holocene period, for example) but few studies aim at understanding the relationship between malaria and thalassemia geographical patterns in association with landscape patterns and usages across space and time.

The first epidemiological study on thalassemia in Cyprus was performed in 1946 under British rule. For the past 50 years, Cyprus implements a population prevention programme based on premarital screening (Schwartz-Cowan, R. 2009). Differences in the distribution of mutations of alpha- and bêta- thalassemia across districts of the island are observed (Kontouris P., et al., 2016; Plato, C.C. et al. 1964) but these particular geographical patterns have not been associated with any history of land use.

For the past 15 years, researches in ecology (Manel et al., 2013) and geography (Carrel M. et al., 2013, 2015) have tried to combine methods from population genetics and landscape ecology in order to evaluate «the role of landscape variables in shaping genetic diversity and population structure» (Storfer A., et al., 2007) and «the interacting population and environmental processes allowing disease to persist and/or evolve» (Carrel et al., 2013). Even though merging methods and theories of these two disciplines have to be taken with caution, they may contribute to understanding transformations of disease and landscape patterns in Cyprus.

Focusing on the link between land use, population dynamics, thalassemia and malaria raises methodological problems in terms of data availability and comparability. In Cyprus, data will be researched from archived sources and national epidemiological programs. It will combine data produced and compiled by the colonial health system with more recent data based on genetic information.

References:

Akide-Ndunge OB, Ayi K, Arese P. The Haldane malaria hypothesis: facts, artifacts, and a prophecy. Redox Rep. 2003;8(5):311-6. doi: 10.1179/135100003225002952. PMID: 14962372.

Carrel M, Patel J, Taylor SM, Janko M, Mwandagalirwa MK, Tshefu AK, Escalante AA, McCollum A, Alam MT, Udhayakumar V, Meshnick S, Emch M. The geography of malaria genetics in the Democratic Republic of Congo: A complex and fragmented landscape. Soc Sci Med. 2015 May;133:233-41. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed. 2014.10.037. Epub 2014 Oct 19. PMID: 25459204; PMCID: PMC4402241.

Carrel M, Emch M. Genetics: A New Landscape for Medical Geography. Ann Assoc Am Geogr. 2013;103(6):1452-1467. doi: 10.1080/00045608.2013.784102. PMID: 24558292; PMCID: PMC3928082.

Dagen M., 2020, , Chapter 1 – History of malaria and its treatment, in Editor(s): Graham L. Patrick,Antimalarial Agents,Elsevier, Pages 1-48, ISBN 9780081012109, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-101210-9.00001-9.

Emms H, Lee R, Thomas A, Doerholt K, Le Doare K. Return of vivax malaria in Cyprus. Arch Dis Child. 2020 Jan;105(1):102-103. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2018-316459. Epub 2018 Dec 3. PMID: 30509951.

Fenderson LE, Kovach AI, Llamas B. Spatiotemporal landscape genetics: Investigating ecology and evolution through space and time. Mol Ecol. 2020 Jan;29(2) 218-246. doi:10.1111/mec.15315. PMID: 31758601.

Fowkes FJ, Day KP. Alpha+ -thalassaemia and malaria in Melanesia: epidemiological perspectives. P N G Med J. 2008 Sep-Dec;51(3-4):131-7. PMID: 21061944.

Kazazian, H.H. and Boehm, C.D. 1988. Molecular basis and prenatal diagnosis of β-thalassemia. Blood 72(4): 1107-1116.

Kountouris P, Kousiappa I, Papasavva T, Christopoulos G, Pavlou E, Petrou M, Feleki X, Karitzie E, Phylactides M, Fanis P, Lederer CW, Kyrri AR, Kalogerou E, Makariou C, Ioannou C, Kythreotis L, Hadjilambi G, Andreou N, Pangalou E, Savvidou I, Angastiniotis M, Hadjigavriel M, Sitarou M, Kolnagou A, Kleanthous M, Christou S. The molecular spectrum and distribution of haemoglobinopathies in Cyprus: a 20-year retrospective study. Sci Rep. 2016 May 20;6:26371. doi: 10.1038/srep26371. PMID: 27199182; PMCID: PMC4873807.

Kyrri AR, Kalogerou E, Loizidou D, Ioannou C, Makariou C, Kythreotis L, Phylactides M, Kountouris P, Angastiniotis M, Modell B, Kleanthous M. The changing epidemiology of β-thalassemia in the Greek-Cypriot population. Hemoglobin. 2013;37(5):435-43. doi: 10.3109/03630269.2013.801851. PMID: 24006929.

Manel S, Holderegger R. Ten years of landscape genetics. Trends Ecol Evol. 2013 Oct;28(10):614-21. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2013.05.012. Epub 2013 Jun 13. PMID: 23769416.

Musallam KM, Rivella S, Vichinsky E, Rachmilewitz EA. Non-transfusion-dependent thalassemias. Haematologica. 2013;98(6):833-844. doi:10.3324/haematol.2012.066845

Nau J-Y., 2018, Nouvelles lumières sur les liens paludisme-thalassémie  Rev Med Suisse 2008; volume 4. 810-810

Origa, R. β-Thalassemia. Genet Med 19, 609–619 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/gim.2016.173

Plato, C.C., Rucknagel, D.L., Gershowitz, H. 1964. Studies on the Distribution of Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency, Thalassemia, and Other Genetic Traits in the Coastal and Mountain Villages of Cyprus. American Journal of Human Genetics, 16(3) 267-283.

Sallares, R, 2006, Role of environmental changes in the spread of malaria in Europe during the Holocene. Quaternary International, 150, 21-27.

Schwartz-Cowan, R. 2009. Moving Up the Slippery Slope: Mandated Genetic Screening on Cyprus. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part C (Seminars in Medical Genetics) 151C:95–103 (2009)

Shelley, H., & Aziz, M. (1949). Anopheles eradication in Cyprus. British Medical Journal., 1(4608), 767. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.1.4608.767

Storfer A, Murphy MA, Evans JS, Goldberg CS, Robinson S, Spear SF, Dezzani R, Delmelle E, Vierling L, Waits LP. Putting the “landscape” in landscape genetics. Heredity (Edinb). 2007 Mar;98(3):128-42. doi: 10.1038/sj.hdy.6800917. Epub 2006 Nov 1. PMID: 17080024.

Weatherall, J. (2004). J. B. S. Haldane and the Malaria Hypothesis. In K. Dronamraju (Ed.), Infectious Disease and Host-Pathogen Evolution (pp. 18-36). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511546259.003