How do multi-drug resistant bacterial pathogens successfully spread?

Website Queen's University Belfast

Last Day to Apply: 16 August 2024

Project description:
Determining the impact of antibiotic resistance on the ability of bacterial pathogens to invade the gut microbiome.
The emergence and spread of multi-drug resistant (MDR) bacterial pathogens, virtually untreatable by antibiotics, poses a fundamental threat to human health. While we know that treating patients with antibiotics selects for resistant bacteria, what determines the spread and success of resistant pathogen lineages once they have emerged remains unknown. The goal of this PhD project is to investigate how the human gut microbiome and environment informs on the spread of antibiotic resistance in priority Gram-negative MDR pathogens (e.g. Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterobacter spp.).

To spread, resistant pathogen lineages must be able to transmit from the environment or other individuals and successfully invade the microbiome at a new infection site. The microbiome can provide colonisation resistance against pathogens via several direct and indirect mechanisms, including via toxin antagonism,
nutrient blocking, or via interactions with host immunity. The ability of a pathogen to overcome this colonisation resistance, and the mechanisms by which this is achieved, is a key factor determining the spread and success of these lineages.

We hypothesise that resistance emerging during treatment provides an advantage in microbial communities by conferring cross-resistance to anti-competitor toxins in the microbiome.

The aims of this project are to:
(1) Test the impact of specific antibiotic resistance mutations on the ability of model laboratory strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter spp. to invade the gut microbiome.

(2) Test the ability of successful MDR lineages of Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter spp. to establish in the gut and determine the mechanisms by which invasion ability is changed in MDR strains.

The PhD student will develop skills in high-throughput ‘wet lab’ microbiology, in vivo infection models, working with mixed microbial communities, and in bioinformatics and bacterial genetics.

Entrance Requirements:

The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree in a relevant subject from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School.

International Students
For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

English Language Requirements
Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required (*taken within the last 2 years).

International students wishing to apply to Queen’s University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen’s University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

Fees and funding
1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status, are expected to be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly Student Fees Regulations. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB are expected to be charged the GB fee, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

2 It is expected that EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI will be eligible for NI tuition fees. The tuition fee set out above is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2021-22, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

Biological Sciences costs
Students may incur additional costs for small items of clothing and/or equipment necessary for lab or field work

Additional course costs
All Students
Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen’s library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.

Bench fees
Some research programmes incur an additional annual charge on top of the tuition fees, often referred to as a bench fee. Bench fees are charged when a programme (or a specific project) incurs extra costs such as those involved with specialist laboratory or field work. If you are required to pay bench fees they will be detailed on your offer letter. If you have any questions about Bench Fees these should be raised with your School at the application stage. Please note that, if you are being funded you will need to ensure your sponsor is aware of and has agreed to fund these additional costs before accepting your place.

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