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PhD Studentship Opportunity: The Role of Mobile DNA in the Evolution, Fitness, AMR and Pathogenicity of Avian Escherichia Coli Populations

University of Surrey

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Guildford
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Fully funded, including fees, stipend and training.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 11th January 2022
Closes: 18th February 2022

The role of mobile DNA in the evolution, fitness, AMR and pathogenicity of avian Escherichia coli populations

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) presents an immediate threat to global health.

Intensive poultry production is a significant animal-human interface at which pathogens and AMR determinants may be introduced into the human food-chain. Considering there are 26 billion domesticated chickens in production globally, the chicken gut microbiota represents an important and understudied reservoir that may facilitate spill-over of AMR determinants into the human niche, and novel interventions are required to control this.

  1. coliis a pioneer constituent of the avian and mammalian gut, however a minority of pathogenic and multi-drug resistant (MDR) E. coli lineages are responsible for enormous health burdens and economic losses worldwide.

We have previously characterised the avian E. coli lineages associated with highest pathogenic potential, and preliminary work has implicated plasmid-encoded class 1 integrons as drivers for the acquisition and dissemination of MDR genes in these populations. 

This PhD studentship aims to assess the impact of MDR gene acquisition events on the fitness, metabolism, and pathogenicity ofEscherichia coli at the animal-human interface, in order to evaluate the risk of emerging MDR and pathogenic E. coli lineages. Additionally, this project will explore the use of probiotic bacteria as a means to reduce emergence of MDR E. coli in this niche.

Approach

Initial studies will focus on characterising the distribution of multi-drug resistance determinants in avian E. coli populations. Suitable plasmids encoding Class 1 integrons will be identified and selected.

The studies will then progress to assess the impact of transmission of these plasmids between defined E. coli genetic backgrounds relevant to avian and human health, using an in vitro avian gut model, as well as assessing the feasibility of employing probiotics as a means of mitigation.

Supervisor 1: Dr Jai Mehat (School of Biosciences and Medicine)
Supervisor 2: Professor Roberto La Ragione (School of Biosciences and Medicine, and School of Veterinary Medicine)

Supervisor 3: Dr Arnoud van Vliet (School of Veterinary Medicine)                                                                                                                                                     

Advisor - Dr Joy Leng (School of Veterinary Medicine)          

This project is open to UK students starting in April 2022

Entry requirements

Minimum of a 2.1 degree in a biological sciences related subject

IELTS minimum 6.5 overall with 6.0 in Writing, or equivalent

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via The role of mobile DNA in the evolution, fitness, AMR and pathogenicity of avian Escherichia coli populations

https://www.surrey.ac.uk/fees-and-funding/studentships/role-mobile-dna-evolution-fitness-amr-and-pathogenicity-avian-escherichia-coli-populations

programme page on the "Apply" tab.

Please state clearly the studentship project at you would like to apply for.

Funding

Fully funded, including fees, stipend and training.

Closing date for applications

18 February 2022

Application enquiries

For application enquiries, please contact Dr Jai Mehat jw.mehat@surrey.ac.uk

Studentship ref

PGR-2122-102

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