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**APPLICATIONS CLOSED**PhD topic: The spatial epidemiology of podoconiosis and irritant soils in Ethiopia and Cameroon.

posted Nov 21, 2013, 1:59 AM by Nicola Wardrop   [ updated Jan 30, 2014, 3:25 AM ]
Funding not guaranteed, but there is the opportunity to obtain funding from the University of Southampton via a competitive process.

Project Description

Podoconiosis (non-infectious elephantiasis) causes major swelling to the foot and lower limbs of affected individuals, occurring in subsistence farming communities in highland areas of tropical Africa, Central America and north-west India. The disease is believed to affect between 5 and 10% of the population in some areas, contributing substantial morbidity and resulting in significant productivity loss and the stigmatisation of affected individuals. Although the precise mechanism of disease development is not fully understand, previous research has identified contact with irritant particles in volcanic soils as responsible for disease development. However, the specific soil components which result in this chronic inflammatory condition have not yet been discovered.

The PhD project will utilise data from soil sampling and analysis, and podoconiosis prevalence surveys in Ethiopia and Cameroon. Building on previous work, spatial analysis will be applied to these data for quantitative assessment of the relationships between podoconiosis occurrence and a range of soil properties. This will develop improved understanding of the specific soil components that contribute to disease development. The application of geostatistics and spatial regression analysis will allow the extrapolation of soil data to provide spatial prediction of potentially irritant soils and, if appropriate, the spatial prediction of podoconiosis prevalence across the study areas.

We aim to recruit a student with strong GIS and spatial analysis skills, preferably with a Master’s Degree in a relevant subject, to apply spatial and statistical methods that capture the interactions between disease occurrence in humans and soil variables. The work will involve both epidemiological and spatial modelling techniques, with the ultimate aim of providing evidence regarding soil properties which are involved in the development of podoconiosis. The project outputs should inform the development of improved evidence-based control measures. The successful candidate will join a team of collaborative researchers from Southampton, London, Brighton, Ethiopia and Cameroon, with the opportunity to spend research time at our collaborating institutions.

References:
Pfeiffer, DU., Robinson, TP., Stevenson, M., Stevens, KB., Rogers, DJ. & Clements, ACA. (2008). Spatial Analysis in Epidemiology. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Davey, G., Tekola, F. & Newport, MJ. (2007). Podoconiosis: non-infectious geochemical elephantiasis. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 101; 1175–1180.

Footwork. The International Podoconiosis Initiative: http://www.podo.org/about-podoconiosis/

Academic requirements:
Candidates must have or expect to gain a first or strong upper second class degree, in an appropriate discipline, not necessarily Geography, preferably with a Masters degree in a relevant subject. Please get in touch with me for further information.
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