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Unit information: Host-Parasite Interactions in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Host-Parasite Interactions
Unit code BIOL31121
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Gibson
Open unit status Not open

None, but we recommend that students should normally 120cps of appropriate Level 2 units in Biological Sciences.

Students who have not taken BIOL20202 or BIOL20005 may find parts of this course difficult.



School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences

Description including Unit Aims


to examine specific examples of host-parasite interactions in depth, with a focus on parasites of medical and veterinary relevance


The interactions between hosts and their parasites involve complex adaptations. Parasites first have to find a suitable host and then the right place in or on the host in which to develop and reproduce. Infection triggers host defences, which have to be countered by the parasite in order to survive and reproduce. This host-parasite arms race has led to the complex interplay between virulence and transmission, pathology and immunity that we see today.

This unit will examine specific examples of host-parasite interactions in depth, with a focus on parasites of medical and veterinary relevance. Emphasis will be on new insights from recent experimental work in molecular biology, immunology, ecology and evolutionary biology.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of host-parasite interactions, as well as an appreciation of current approaches to study these interactions through experiment.

Teaching Information

Lectures, interactive seminars/workshops and independent study.

Assessment Information

There is a 2-hour written paper in the summer which counts for 100%. The questions will involve both review essays, requiring a critical evaluation of a given theme, and “problem-solving” exercises. You will be required to answer one “typical” essay question and one “problem” question from the choice offered within the two sections. Questions are designed so that they cut across the subject matter considered in the separate lecture blocks. Be aware that the best answers will require reference to material taken from the whole Unit rather than single lectures.

Reading and References

Most of the lecture material for the specific subjects considered in this Unit is taken from research papers and is not covered in any one textbook. You will receive a list of references with each lecture block.

As background to Parasitology and the diverse organisms considered, you will find a range of general textbooks in the library. Amongst these, you will find a good coverage of basic information in

  • Roberts, L.S. & Janovy, J. Foundations of Parasitology.
  • Bush, A.O., Fernandez, J.C., Esch, G.W. & Seed, R.J. Parasitism: the diversity and ecology of animal parasites.