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Developing a novel approach to improve the welfare of dairy cows: inactivating mastitis-causing bacteria using non-invasive cold atmospheric plasma (CAP)

Bristol Veterinary School

About the Project

The project:
Conservative estimates for the global dairy industry suggest 300 million cows produce 600 million tons of milk annually. UK milk production is worth £8.8b, 20% of total agricultural output. Mastitis is highly prevalent in dairy cattle, reducing milk quality, milk yield, reproductive performance, increasing treatment costs, raising greenhouse gas production and causes pain, suffering and stress to the animals. Mastitis is caused by bacterial infection or injury of the cow’s udder.

Mastitis is predominantly treated with antibiotics. However, antibiotic use is discouraged due to development of antimicrobial resistance and residues in milk. Novel strategies for preventing mastitis are urgently needed.

Cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) is a novel non-thermal technology exhibiting antibacterial properties, produced in the laboratory by excitation of gas molecules using electrical discharges. CAP has the potential to inhibit bacterial biofilms and promote healing of injuries due to the reactive species it contains (e.g. oxygen/nitrogen). We have shown that CAP is effective in eliminating bacterial pathogens on steel/polymer, food and artificial human skin. This project will explore the use of CAP to prevent bovine mastitis, thereby improving milk quality/production and animal welfare, and reducing the use of antibiotics. For the first time, we will investigate: i) the efficacy of CAP against bacterial biofilms associated with mastitis and ii) the safety of CAP on bovine mammary cells, using 3D printed bovine mammary skin and ex-vivo skin models.

The student will join active interdisciplinary research groups with access to world class facilities at University of Bristol (animal welfare, physiology, regenerative medicine) and University of the West of England (cold plasma, microbiology, cell biology and metabolism), will receive excellent training and support from their supervisory team, and develop the skills and enterprising mindset that employers seek. The student will benefit from a rich collaboration with Dr Lamprou, expert on 3D-printed skin models (Queen’s University Belfast).

This studentship starts September 2021.

Supervisory team:
Lead supervisors: Prof John Tarlton (UoB), Dr Alexandros Stratakos (UWE) Dr Daniel Enriquez-Hidalgo (UoB), Dr Tim Craig (UWE)
Collaborator: Dr Dimitrios Lamprou (QUB)
Host institutions: University of Bristol, University of the West of England. Submit applications to the University of Bristol

How to apply:
This studentship is part of the BBSRC SWBio Doctoral Training Partnership ( Please apply from

Candidate requirements:
Please see for conditions specific to this funding.

Standard University of Bristol eligibility rules for PhD admissions also apply. Please visit for more information.

Dr Alexandros Stratakos ()
Prof John Tarlton ()
Dr Daniel Enriquez-Hidalgo ()

Funding Notes

Funding: For eligible students (see above), funding is available to cover Home tuition fees and UKRI Doctoral Stipend (£15,009 p.a. for 2019/20, updated each year) for 4 years. An enhanced stipend is available for eligible students with a recognised veterinary degree (£23,164 p.a. for 2019-2020). Research training budget will also be provided to supervisors.

Most international students (including EU students) are ineligible for this funding. However, we will consider competitive self-funded applications from non-UK nationals who are supported by their own government agencies, international organisations or private funders.

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