Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Mutually Exclusive
External Examiners
  • Dr Martin Genner (Senior Lecturer - University of Bristol)
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 30 x 1 Hour Lectures
Seminar 4 x 1 Hour Seminars
Practical 2 x 4 Hour Practicals


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Research note.  20%
Semester Assessment Student centered learning booklet.  20%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   60%
Supplementary Assessment Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  40%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Compare and contrast the diversity of parasites (as expressed in their structure, physiology, life cycles and development) and their potential to cause disease and economic loss.

2. Critically evaluate the attempts and strategies to control parasites

3. Differentiate the progress of modern molecular biology technologies to increase understanding of the host-parasite relationships, improve parasite diagnosis and support anti-parasite therapy discovery.

Brief description

The nature of parasitism will be discussed using examples from the major protozoan, helminth and arthropod groups. The course will emphasize the dynamic nature of the relationship between parasites and their hosts and seeks to present an overview of current basic and applied research on the organisms that live in the third great environment - namely the body of another individual.


The module will cover the basic morphology, physiology and life cycles of the major groups of parasitic protozoans, monogeneans, digeneans, cestodes, acanthocephalans, nematodes, (plant and animal parasitic) and parasitic arthropods, with special reference to those of medical or economic importance. Sites of parasitism will be first illustrated by a consideration of the vertebrate gut and how parasites are adapted for life in this specialized environment. There is a complex interaction between parasites and the immune systems of their hosts. Parasites have evolved a range of evasion strategies, including absorption of host antigen, antigenic variation, immuno-suppression and use of immunologically privileged sites. Immune evasion will be illustrated with examples from vertebrate and invertebrate hosts. Chemotherapy remains the most cost effective way of treating parasitic disease, but drug resistance is an increasing problem.
Parasites show a wide range of biochemical adaptations, many related to the micro-aerobic nature of their environment and the changes that occur during their life cycle. Biochemical differences between parasites and their hosts provide targets for rational chemotherapy, whilst differences between parasites and their free-living relatives can give an insight into the biochemical basis of parasitism. The organization of parasite genomes and some of the unique mechanisms of mRNA editing found in parasites will also be covered.
The discovery, development and mode of action of modern antiparasite drugs will be described, as will the mechanisms responsible for the evolution of drug resistance. The helminth nervous system is structurally simple, but biochemically complex and is an important target for anthelmintics.
The many problems involved in making a realistic assessment of the cost of parasitism or of measuring the impact of parasites on their natural hosts, will be discussed. Frequent attempts have been made to control parasites of humans, domesticated livestock and crops; the outcome of some of these control strategies will be evaluated. A summary of the current ideas on the evolution of parasites, the impact of parasites on the evolution of their hosts and of the concept of host-parasite specificity will be presented and discussed. The structure of parasites will be described in relation to the insight these studies provide into parasite survival both within the host and during the free-living stages. Life cycles, development and modes of transmission will include accounts of the importance of direct transmission, the role of vectors and intermediate hosts, zoonoses and reproductive potential (Ro). Patterns in the distribution of parasites will be described and the mechanisms responsible for generating those patterns evaluated.
The module will include a seminar discussion on a recent research publication that will form the basis of a compulsory question in the written examination. The module concludes with invited research seminars from researchers from the IBERS Parasitology group.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Students will have opportunity to collect and interpret data in practical classes with respect to quality and quantity. Feedback on this will be provided with the returned assignment.
Communication Students will develop effective listening skills for the lectures & compulsory seminar and subsequent discussion in practical classes. Students will develop effective written communication skills in practical class write-ups. Feedback on this will be provided with returned assignment.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students ability to devise and monitor time management, learning and performance skills throughout module via attending lectures, seminars, seminar preparation meetings and practical classes. The directed study elements provided in the module will specifically allow students to explore their own learning styles/ preferences, and identify their own needs and barriers to successful learning.
Information Technology Students will develop skills in accessing the web for information sources and using databases to find primary research literature.
Personal Development and Career planning
Problem solving Students will develop skills in lectures, seminars and practical classes in differentiating methods for parasite control. Practical classes will allow students to gain experience in designing, executing, interpreting data and writing-up assessed parasitological experiments. Feedback on will be provided with the returned assignment.
Research skills Practical classes will allow the development of key parasitological research skills. Feedback will be provided with returned assignments.
Subject Specific Skills In lectures, seminars and practical classes students will gain skills in determining the biotic and abiotic factors underpinning parasite life-cycles. The module provides skills in designing approaches to diagnose parasite infection and to develop skills in contemporary methods and biological background to discover vaccines and news drugs.
Team work In the practical sessions the students will work in pairs/small groups. Therefore, they will need to discuss their experimental design and work effectively as a small team prior to confirming design with teaching staff. Feedback on this will be given verbally during the practical class.


This module is at CQFW Level 6