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Disrupting the regulatory mechanisms that allow hospital acquired infections to resist antibiotic therapy.


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Dr R McCarthy Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The discovery of penicillin over 90 years ago and its subsequent uptake by healthcare systems around the world revolutionised global health and wellbeing. It marked the beginning of a golden age in antibiotic discovery with new classes of antibiotics being routinely discovered and saving millions of lives annually. However, towards the end of the last century the rate of discovery slowed to a near standstill. This lack of discovery has been compounded by the rapid emergence and spread of bacterial pathogens that exhibit multidrug resistance threatening the sustainability of healthcare systems globally.
Acinetobacter baumannii is a Gram negative coccobacillus that is associated with hospital-acquired infections worldwide. It is an opportunistic pathogen that can colonise a range of anatomical sites in immune compromised individuals leading to a variety of life threatening clinical complications. ~2% of all health care associated infections in Europe and USA are caused by this pathogen. The greatest concern associated with this pathogen however is that between 45 - 70% of isolates exhibit multidrug resistance; rates that are significantly higher than those observed for other Gram negative pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
This proposed research project aims to identify compounds and proteins that can disrupt the underlying regulatory mechanisms that allow Acinetobacter baumannii to resist treatment and persist in the hospital environment. We will use a combination of custom designed biosensors, invertebrate model organisms, high through put screening and artificial models of infection persistence to identify potential new antimicrobials. The mechanism of action of these candidates will then be explored using a range of classical microbiology and genetic approaches. To determine specificity, the impact of these new antimicrobials on the native microbiome will also be investigated using next generation sequencing technologies.

Funding Notes

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here:
Recently the UK Government made available the Doctoral Student Loans of up to £25,000 for UK and EU students and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.

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