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Department of Veterinary Medicine

Cambridge Veterinary School

Gastrointestinal helminths, host-parasite interactions, high-throughput sequencing technologies

Our research interests fall within the general area of host-parasite interactions, and specifically the ability of gastrointestinal (GI) helminth parasites to modify the structure and function of the host gut flora to their advantage. In particular, our research focuses on identifying the immune-molecular mechanisms that underpin the observed ch

anges in microbiota make-up of helminth-infected humans and animals. The consequences that elucidating such mechanisms may exert on future strategies of parasite control are two-fold. First, disentangling the potential contribution of the gut flora to the pathogenesis of the infection is necessary in order to discover and develop new strategies to contrast helminth-associated pathology. Second, understanding the microbiota-dependent mechanisms by which parasitic helminths are able to modulate host immune responses and suppress inflammation may assist the discovery of novel immune-regulatory therapeutics against chronic inflammatory disorders of the GI tract that may act in synergy with helminth-based therapy.


I completed my Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine degree at the University of Bari (Italy) in 2006, with a thesis on the life cycle of the 'oriental eyeworm', Thelazia callipaeda, under the supervision of Professor Domenico Otranto. I then moved to Australia, where, I completed a PhD in Molecular Parasitology at The University of Melbourne (2011) under the guidance of Professor Robin Gasser, focusing on studies of the fundamental biology of helminth parasites using high-throughput sequencing technologies and bioinformatics. In 2012, I was honoured to receive a Peter Doherty Early Career Research Fellowship by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia to continue my research on the molecular bases of host-parasite interactions in the laboratory of Professor Alex Loukas at James Cook University in Cairns. In 2013, I moved to the Cambridge Vet School where I continue my research on mechanisms of host-parasite interactions using cutting-edge molecular tools.


Key publications: 

Google Scholar - list of all publications 


  1. Cortés A., Rinaldi G., Sotillo J., Cantacessi C., 2021: Gut microbiota-derived extracellular vesicles: Overlooked mediators in host-helminth interactions? Trends in Parasitology, 37(8): 690-3.
  2. Jenkins T.P., Pritchard D.I., Tanasescu R., Telford G., Papaiakovou M., Scotti R., Cortés A., Constantinescu C.S., Cantacessi C., 2021: Experimental infection with the hookworm, Necator americanus, is associated with stable gut microbial diversity in human volunteers with relapsing multiple sclerosis. BMC Biology, 19(1): 74.
  3. Rooney J., Cortés A., Scotti R., Price D., Bartley Y., Fairlie-Clarke K., McNeilly T., Nisbet A.J., Cantacessi C., 2021: Vaccination against the brown stomach worm, Teladorsagia circumcincta, followed by parasite challenge, induces inconsistent modifications in gut microbiota composition of lambs. Parasites & Vectors, 14(1): 189.
  4. Cortés A., Clare S., Costain A., Almeida A., McCarthy C., Harcourt K., Brandt C., Tolley C., Rooney J., Berriman M., Lawley T., MacDonald A.S., Rinaldi G., Cantacessi C., 2020: Baseline gut microbiota composition is associated with Schistosoma mansoni infection burden in rodent models. Frontiers in Immunology,11: 593838.
  5. Formenti F., Cortés A., Brindley P.J., Cantacessi C., Rinaldi G., 2020: A bug’s life – delving into the challenges of helminth microbiome studies. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 14(9): e0008446.
  6. 10. Tanasescu R., Tench C.R., Constantinescu C.S., Telford G., Singh S., Frakich N., Onion D., Auer D.P., Gran B., Evangelou N., Falah Y., Ranshaw C., Cantacessi C., Jenkins T.P., Pritchard D.I., 2020: Hookworm treatment for relapsing multiple sclerosis – a randomised double-blinded placebo controlled trial. JAMA Neurology, 77(9): 1-10.
  7. Cortés A., Wills J., Su X., Hewitt R.E., Robertson J., Scotti R., Price D.R.G., Bartley Y., McNeilly T., Krause L., Powell J.J., Nisbet A.J., Cantacessi C., 2020: Infection with the sheep gastrointestinal nematode Teladorsagia circumcincta increases luminal pathobionts. Microbiome, 8: 60.
  8. Scotti R., Sourthern S., Boinett C., Jenkins T.P., Cortés A., Cantacessi C., 2020: MICHELINdb: a web-based tool for mining of helminth-microbiota interaction datasets, and a meta-analysis of current research. Microbiome, 8: 10.
  9. Cortés A., Peachey L.E., Jenkins T.P., Scotti R., Cantacessi C., 2019: Helminths and microbes within the vertebrate gut – not all studies are created equal. Parasitology, 146: 1371-1378.
  10. Duque-Correa M.A., Karp N.A., McCarthy C., Forman S., Goulding D., Sankaranarayanan G., Jenkins T.P., Reid A.J., Cambridge E.L., Ballesteros-Reviriego C., Muller W., Cantacessi C., Dougan G., Grencis R.K., Berriman M., 2019: Exclusive dependence of IL-10 signaling on intestinal microbiota homeostasis and control of whipworm infection. PLoS Pathogens, 15: e1007265.
Dr Cinzia   Cantacessi
Professor of Parasite Infection Biology

Contact Details

Email address: 
+44 (0) 1223 760541
Takes PhD students
Available for consultancy


Person keywords: 
Host-parasite interactions
Canine vector-borne diseases
Infectious Diseases
Biosciences and Biotechnology Research Council
Boehringer Ingelheim
Isaac Newton Trust