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EASTBIO Genomic epidemiology of bovine mastitis pathogens

  • Full or part time

    Prof R Fitzgerald
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, January 05, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies / The Roslin Institute

Mastitis, inflammation of the mammary gland, is one of the most common and economically important diseases in dairy cattle. Bovine mastitis causes reductions in milk yield and quality and in severe cases the affected animal is culled. As a result, the annual cost of bovine mastitis to the UK dairy industry is estimated to be c. £200m with the worldwide cost projected to be $200bn. Furthermore, bovine mastitis is responsible for the use of large amounts of antimicrobial drugs with concomitant worries over the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance and the impact that this may have on both animal and human medicine. A variety of bacterial species are responsible for bovine mastitis with Escherichia coli, Streptococcus uberis, Staphylococcus aureus and other staphylococci typically being the most prevalent (Bradley et al. 2007).

This project will use whole-genome sequencing to investigate the biology of significant bovine mastitis pathogens. A variety of questions will be addressed that will provide valuable new insights into the epidemiology and transmission of these pathogens from the level of individual animals to within herds and through to the relationships between isolates internationally. The project will also provide a genomics-based approach to investigating zoonosis, antimicrobial resistance, host-adaption, virulence factors, diagnostics/prognostic markers and potential vaccine antigens in key mastitis pathogens. Together these data have the potential to underpin the development of improved interventions to tackle bovine mastitis. For recent publications on bacterial genomics work by project supervisors see MacFadyen et al. 2018 and Richardson et al. 2018. The project benefits from the collaboration of supervisors on the Easter Bush campus involved in basic research biology, with expertise in antimicrobial resistance, bacterial epidemiology and genomics with that of real world clinical and dairy herd health expertise.

The project offers training and experience in basic laboratory microbiology, ie. the isolation, identification and antimicrobial sensitivity testing of bovine mastitis pathogens. A major component will be the bioinformatics analysis of sequenced bacterial genomes, potentially involving species identification, phylogenetic analysis, comparative genomics, genome-wide association studies, the identification of antimicrobial resistance genes, virulence determinates and mobile genetic elements.

There is a vibrant postgraduate community on the campus providing a variety of scholarly and social opportunities and the university offers a wide range of training in transferrable skills relevant to postgraduate study and future careers.

All candidates should have or expect to have a minimum of an appropriate upper 2nd class degree. To qualify for full funding students must be UK or EU citizens who have been resident in the UK for 3 years prior to commencement.

Funding Notes

Completed application form along with your supporting documents should be sent to our PGR student team at

Please send the reference request form to two referees. Completed forms for University of Edinburgh, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin Institute project should be returned to by the closing date: 5th January 2020.

It is your responsibility to ensure that references are provided by the specified deadline.
Download application and reference forms via:
View Website


Bradley AJ et al. 2007. Survey of the incidence and aetiology of mastitis on dairy farms in England and Wales. Vet Rec. Feb 24;160(8):253-7.
MacFadyen AC et al. 2018. Genome analysis of methicillin resistance in Macrococcus caseolyticus from dairy cattle in England and Wales. Microb Genom. Aug;4(8).
Richardson EJ et al. 2018. Gene exchange drives the ecological success of a multi-host bacterial pathogen. Nat Ecol Evol. Sep;2(9):1468-1478.

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