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Developing an innovative gastrointestinal model to assess the effects of antimicrobial agents on the gut microbiota: microbiology and molecular mechanisms to ensure long term healthy outcomes for patients receiving treatment

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, February 17, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in October 2019.

The PhD will be based in the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences and will be supervised by Dr Sarah Fouch and Dr James Brown.

The work on this project will use molecular and traditional methods to identify, quantify and determine the resistance of single cultures followed by intestinal microbiota using faecal samples obtained from QA hospital, Portsmouth and Hampshire Hospitals Trust, Winchester and Basingstoke, before and after treatment with antimicrobial agents.


Project description

Antibiotics have been central to human health and longevity. However, overuse and inappropriate prescribing practices have resulted in a growing alarm regarding the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, to the extent that it is now recognised by the World Health Organisation as the greatest threat to mankind. Research has identified an increase in intestinal colonisation with multi-resistant bacteria, such as Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase’s. Although colonisation will not routinely cause harm, this could potentially increase the risk of contracting antibiotic resistant infections, particularly those associated with the urinary tract.

The current project proposes to construct a colon model to evaluate if current antimicrobial prescribing policies promote resistance within the intestinal microbiota. The human intestine harbours more than 1000 different species of bacteria which are essential for health. However, any changes to this natural ecosystem, through the use of antibiotics, alters the balance of healthy and potentially pathogenic bacteria. Using treatment guidelines (parenteral and oral) for routine infections, the colon model will be challenged, to determine alterations in the microbiota population and identify potential increases in bacterial resistance.

Previous pilot studies, conducted by this research group, have demonstrated significant increase in intestinal microbiota resistance after the treatment of complicated urinary tract infections. These results suggest that current dosing regimens may contribute to resistance changes within the gut microflora. Therefore, this project, in collaboration with NHS services, aims to investigate the changes in the intestinal microbiota prior to and after antimicrobial therapy, with the objectives of determining the resistance changes in GI microbiota, and thus the continued health and wellbeing of the patients.

Microbial samples will be collected from patients, prior to any antimicrobial therapy. We will then use a range of cutting edge techniques, ranging from molecular biology and microbiology analyses to probe the changing nature and resistance of the GI microbiota. This will allow us to directly address any effects thereby preventing the onset of increased resistances, resulting in a potential saving in terms of patient and healthcare costs.


General admissions criteria
You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum second class
or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in a relevant subject area . In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

How to Apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Sarah Fouch () to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Biomedical, Biomolecular and Pharmacy’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.


If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code PHBM4800219 when applying.

Funding Notes

The bursary is available to UK and EU students only and covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant in line with the RCUK rate (£14,777 for 2018/19) for three years.

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