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Emergence and transfer of AMR and AMB in aquatic environments

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Arnscheidt
  • Application Deadline
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  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Applications are invited for a funded PhD studentship tenable in the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences at the 
Coleraine Campus.
All applicants should hold a first or upper second class honours degree in Freshwater Aquatic Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Biological or Biomedical Sciences or related area.

There is growing concern about the perceived emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the environment (Berendonk et al, 2015). While aquatic environments have been suggested as conduits, mixing reactors and facilitators for the rise in AMR, hypothesised mechanisms and processes have remained largely untested in an environmental context (Taylor et al, 2011). Therefore, this project aims to characterise differences between representative invertebrate species from diverse functional feeding groups (e.g. grazers and collectors/gatherers) in their propensity to facilitate emergence and spread of AMR in freshwater and transitional water environments.

Objectives of the research
Exposure to pollution, habitat preference, methods of food acquisition and type of food consumed are parameters that determine the probability for aquatic invertebrates to get in contact with antimicrobial resistant bacteria (AMB). For example a benthic invertebrate feeding on wastewater residues would be more likely to encounter AMB or subtherapeutic concentrations of antimicrobial drugs than an invertebrate living on the surface of an unpolluted lake. Some invertebrate feeding mechanisms some may even further concentrate AMB in the gastrointestinal tract. This project will investigate whether there are habitat or food preferences and feeding mechanisms that facilitate the transfer of AMR in or on aquatic invertebrates. Such transfers would be anticipated among ingested bacteria themselves or between the latter and the invertebrates’ microbial symbionts.

After initial screening model organisms will be selected for studies in single species and multispecies microcosms, which will be spiked with AMB or pollutants, microbiocides or antimicrobials. Gastrointestinal and other body compartments of the model organisms involved in food acquisition will then be investigated for the presence of AMB (with tests for multi drug resistance on any resistant bacteria isolates), for any evidence of AMG transfer between ingested and symbiotic bacteria within individual host organisms and for AMB and antimicrobial resistance genes (AMG) transfer across trophic levels.

Project deliverables
1) Suitable single or multi species microcosms for studying spatial aggregation of AMB and transfer of AMR.
2) Documentation of AMB aggregation and concentration in feeding organisms.
3) Quantification of AMR transfer in individual organisms and across trophic levels.
4) Identification of genes that are transferred between ingested AMB and symbiotic microflora.
5) Identification of effects of microbiocide and pollutant exposure on AMG frequency in test organisms’ microbiome.

Successful candidates will enrol as of September 2016, on a full-time programme of research studies leading to the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
The studentship will comprise fees together with an annual stipend of £14,296 and will be awarded for a period of up to three years subject to satisfactory progress.

The closing date for receipt of completed applications is 26th February 2016.
Interviews will be held during March 2016.

Further information may be found at - http://www.science.ulster.ac.uk/gradschool/environmental/
if you wish to discuss this topic or receive advice on research please contact Dr Joerg Arnscheidt
Freshwater Sciences, Environmental Sciences Research Institute, Ulster University
Tel: +44 (0)28 7012 4095
Email: [Email Address Removed]
For more information on applying go to ulster.ac.uk/research 
Apply online ulster.ac.uk/applyonline

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