Faculty of Biological Sciences

Research Bulletin

Feline friends?

6th September 2012

A report showing that 350,000 people in the UK become infected with the Toxoplasma parasite each year has raised new concerns about its risks and has prompted a rethink of the dangers posed by cats.

A link between serious mental disorders, including schizophrenia, and the parasite, which is spread by cats, was observed, but studies reported in 2009 and extended in 2011 by a team from the University of Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences led by Dr Glenn McConkey provided key genetic evidence that the parasite Toxoplasma gondii could change production of dopamine in the brain.

Disruption of dopamine regulation is believed to be involved in a number of human psychological issues.

The work helped trigger a Food Standards Agency (FSA) review of the threat posed by Toxoplasma that reported this week and attracted wide media interest.

The FSA's Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) recommended further research into routes of Toxoplasma transmission and identification of risks of infection.

Toxoplasmosis is relatively common, with 10-20% of the UK population thought to carry the parasite as cysts. Most people with the parasite do not suffer apparent health problems. However, the impact on high risk groups including unborn children and people with immune deficiencies means that Toxoplasma ranks second among food pathogens in terms of its impact on public health.

Recent Grants

Neil Ranson, Mark Harris, Ade Whitehouse, Peter Stockley, Sheena Radford, Alan Berry, Wellcome Trust (Mar 2016), £1,000,000

Katie Field, BBSRC (Jan 2016), £830,381

Alan Berry, Alex Breeze, Adam Nelson, BBSRC (Jan 2016), £479,490

Alan Berry, Wellcome Trust (Oct 2015), £752,365

Julie Aspden, MRC (Oct 2015), £633,020

Steve Sait, NERC (Oct 2015), £386,061

Urwin, Howard Atkinson, BBSRC (Oct 2015), £200,293

Eric Hewitt, Andrew Macdonald, Yorkshire Kidney Research Fund (Oct 2015), £46,621

Ade Whitehouse, Alison Ashcroft, Ian Carr, BBSRC (Sep 2015), £438,975

Dave Westhead, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research (Sep 2015), £430,567

Shaunna Burke, Andrea Utley, Sarah Astill, Arts Council of England (Sep 2015), £80,594

Samit Chakrabarty, Ronaldo Ichiyama, Intl Foundn for Research in Paraplegia (Aug 2015), £93,000

Eileen Ingham, John Fisher, EPSRC (Jul 2015), £1,458,439

Anastasia Zhuravleva, BBSRC (Jul 2015), £483,019

Alex O'Neill, MRC (Jul 2015), £249,822

Ade Whitehouse, Richard Foster, Cancer Research UK (Jul 2015), £201,034

Ronaldo Ichiyama, Jim Deuchars, Sue Deuchars, Wings For Life Spinal Cord Research (Jul 2015), £123,895

Helen Miller, ABNA Ltd (Jul 2015), £22,968

Martin Stacey and colleagues in FMH, MRC (Jun 2015), £426,475

Adrian Goldman, Sarah Harris, Roman Tuma, BBSRC (Jun 2015), £420,693

Elwyn Isaac, EU (Jun 2015), £238,915

Christine Foyer, BBSRC (Jun 2015), £160,401

Adrian Goldman, EU (Jun 2015), £116,331

David Brockwell, Sheena Radford, Innovate UK (Jun 2015), £113,378

Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso, EPSRC (Jun 2015), £93,672

Michelle Peckham, Peter Knight, Thomas Edwards, BBSRC (May 2015), £404,987

Michelle Peckham, Ed White, Peter Knight, BHF (May 2015), £208,184

Dave Westhead, Sheena Radford, Alex Breeze, BBSRC (May 2015), £51,021

Steve Clapcote, Vitaflo International Ltd (May 2015), £33,703

Les Firbank, Joe Holden, Pippa Chapman, NERC (Apr 2015), £388,726

Samit Chakrabarty, David Steenson, BBSRC (Apr 2015), £120,103

Paul Millner, Gin Jose, Sarah Aickin, DSTL Porton Down (Apr 2015), £63,407

Chris Hassell, David Lewis, The Physiological Society (Apr 2015), £6,900

Andrew Tuplin, Royal Society (Mar 2015), £15,000

Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso, Royal Society (Mar 2015), £14,770

Patricija Van Oosten-Hawle, Royal Society (Mar 2015), £13,960

Stuart Egginton, BHF (Mar 2015), £272,979

Keith Hamer, Department of Energy & Climate Change (Mar 2015), £58,066

Andrew Macdonald, Yorkshire Kidney Research Fund (Mar 2015), £41,171

Les Firbank, DEFRA Dept for Env. Food & Rural Affairs (Feb 2015), £20,000

Ian Hope, Marie-Anne Shaw, BBSRC (Jan 2015), £381,998

Paul Knox, BBSRC (Jan 2015), £5,000

Andrew Peel, BBSRC (Jan 2015), £359,077

Christine Foyer, BBSRC (Jan 2015), £408,334

Dave Westhead and colleagues in Experimental Haematology, Cancer Research UK (Jan 2015), £700,521

Mike McPherson, Christoph Walti, DSTL Porton Down (Jan 2015), £625,125

Sheena Radford, Mark Harris, Peter Stockley, Alan Berry, Alex O'Neill, Thomas Edwards, Adrian Goldman, Anastasia Zhuravleva, Wellcome Trust (Jan 2015), £443,015

Alison Ashcroft, Peter Stockley, Sheena Radford, Nicola Stonehouse, David Brockwell, Darren Tomlinson, BBSRC (Jan 2015), £340,937

Bill Kunin, EU (Jan 2015), £157,490

John Colyer, Leeds Teaching Hospitals Charitable Fund (Jan 2015), £40,000

Chris Hassall, Royal Society (Dec 2014), £14,500

Ryan Seipke, Royal Society (Nov 2014), £13,700

Neil Ranson, BBSRC (Nov 2014), £355,253


Voluntary exercise delays heart failure onset in rats with pulmonary artery hypertension

6th October 2015

Professor White’s group’s observations on rats suggest that appropriate exercise regimes may be useful in the treatment of pulmonary artery hypertension.

Professor Nicola Stonehouse discusses the HPV vaccine for ITV calendar news

1st October 2015

A mother from Grantham says a vaccine designed to prevent her daughter getting cervical cancer has led to the teenager developing a neurological condition.

Offshore wind farms could be more risky for gannets than previously thought

28th September 2015

Offshore wind farms which are to be built in waters around the UK could pose a greater threat to protected populations of gannets than previously thought.

Tortoise poo highlights the need to conserve parasite communities as well as their hosts

23rd September 2015

For most people diseases and parasites are only seen as something to be eradicated because of their negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of humans, or agricultural and wild species.

Swinging on ‘monkey bars’: motor proteins caught in the act

14th September 2015

The first images of motor proteins in action are published in the journal Nature Communications today. 

Outstanding examples of Leeds research impact named

11th September 2015

Dr Simon Goodman wins the inaugural Vice-Chancellor’s Impact Award for the Medicine and Biological Science Category - Biosecurity and sustainable tourism in the Galapagos Islands.

FBS academic £250,000 award from research council

11th September 2015

Dr Alex O'Neil has been featured as an award winner for his research 'Silent antibiotic resistence genes:an overlooked issue of considerable importance in antibacterial chemotherapy' in the Times Higher Education publication

From musical innovation to climate change, contributing to the British Science Festival

9th September 2015

A pioneering digital musician is following in the footsteps of physicist Brian Cox by being chosen to give a public lecture at the British Science Festival in Bradford (7-10 September).

Dr Alex McLean

Bats wake up and smell the coffee

20th August 2015

Intensive agriculture is taking a toll on bats in the Western Ghats of India, one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, but shade-grown coffee, remnant rainforest patches and riverine vegetation strips may help struggling species hang on.

Food production shocks 'will happen more often because of extreme weather'

14th August 2015

Professor Tim Benton (biology), from University of Leeds has conducted research that suggests climate change and a rising demand in food from a high population could cause a frightening situation. 

“Brainy” mice raise hope of better treatments for cognitive disorders

14th August 2015

Researchers have created unusually intelligent mice by altering a single gene and as a result the mice were also less likely to feel anxiety or recall fear. 

Study finds non-genetic cancer mechanism

27th July 2015

Cancer can be caused solely by protein imbalances within cells, a study of ovarian cancer has found.

Physiological Society Oral Communication Prize Winners

17th July 2015

Ewan Fowler and Sabine Lotteau from the Cardiovascular, Sport and Exercise Sciences group (School of Biomedical Sciences) have been awarded the Physiological Society’s Oral Communication Prizes

Age doesn’t dull damselflies' love lives

16th July 2015

Aging damselflies never lose their libidos and are just as likely as younger competitors to mate.


Professor Ingham examinines the biological effects of wear particles from joint replacements.

Professor Eileen Ingham has led research over many years to develop improved approaches to aid healing and repair of soft tissues.

Professor Ian Chopra and Dr Alex O'Neill have shown that high levels of FA prevent the development of resistant bacteria.

Research by Dr Simon Goodman shows how large the effect of human activity has been on the Caspian Seal.

All impact stories