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Clarifying the role of Blastocystis in human intestinal disease


It is now realised that the human intestinal microbiota is central to health and wellbeing. However, the vast amount of research into the human microbiome has focused primarily on the prokaryotic (bacterial) component of this complex microbial ecosystem and we understand virtually nothing of the eukaryotic species, such as the protists, that are known to play critical roles in structuring microbial communities in other natural ecosystems. Blastocystis is the most common protist in the human intestinal tract (IT); current estimates indicate that it colonises up to 1 billion people worldwide. Crucially, Blastocystis is considered to be an emerging pathogen, but its role in human illness and disease is both controversial and unclear.
The key research goal of this project is to clarify the role of Blastocystis in human intestinal health and disease. For this project there will be a specific focus on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). We will analyse the prevalence and genetic diversity of Blastocystis in IBS together with healthy individuals and study the interactions between Blastocystis and specific intestinal bacteria. We will use an integrated series of state-of-the-art experiments encompassing both quantitative and qualitative analysis. These include a novel high-throughput PCR with high genetic resolution to assess Blastocystis variation in IBS and healthy groups, next-generation sequence analysis of IT bacteria, quantitative PCR, virulence assays, in vitro microcosm experiments and phenotypic assays.
The novel interdisciplinary framework outlined in this proposal that combines molecular microbial surveys of the human IT with experimental microbial ecology and evolution, will allow us to address unresolved and original research questions. Data from this study also has the potential for commercialisation including the development of novel therapeutic treatments.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/microbiology/bacteriology
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/ecology/ecosystems

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MC-IEF - Intra-European Fellowships (IEF)


Agricultural Catchments Programme
Oak Park
R93 Carlow
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 246 782,60
Administrative Contact
Paul Cotter (Dr.)