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Impact of copper hypertolerance systems on fitness and antimicrobial resistance in Staphylococcus aureus

Institute of Microbiology and Infection

Friday, August 07, 2020 Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

About the project:
Applications are invited for a full-time PhD studentship based at the Institute of Microbiology & Infection, University of Birmingham. The successful applicant will join Dr Joan Geoghegan’s research group studying the molecular basis of human colonisation and infection by Staphylococcus aureus.

Pathogens such as S. aureus must adapt to the conditions they experience during colonisation and infection, including host immune defences and exposure to antimicrobial agents. Copper is a key component of innate immune bactericidal defences. We have recently shown that copper hypertolerance genes located on mobile genetic elements in epidemic strains of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) encode proteins that protect MRSA from killing within macrophages and in human blood (Zapotoczna et al., 2018, Purves et al., 2018). This PhD studentship aims to elucidate the impact of copper hypertolerance systems on fitness and antimicrobial resistance in S. aureus and to understand the underlying molecular basis. A combination of molecular microbiology and cell biology approaches will be used to establish how copper hypertolerance genes influence colonisation, pathogen fitness, virulence and antimicrobial resistance in MRSA.

Person Specification

Applicants should have a strong background in microbiology. They should have a commitment to research in infection biology and molecular microbiology, and hold or realistically expect to obtain at least an Upper Second Class Honours Degree in immunology, microbiology, biochemistry, biomedical sciences or a related subject.

How to apply

Applications should be made to Dr Joan Geoghegan ().

To apply, please send:
• A detailed CV, including your nationality and country of birth;
• Names and addresses of two referees;
• A covering letter highlighting your research experience/capabilities;
• Copies of your degree certificates with transcripts;
• Evidence of your proficiency in the English language, if applicable.

Funding Notes

Tuition fees covered for European/UK students only.

The studentship is funded by the Royal Society and the Wolfson Foundation and covers a stipend (£15,285.00 per annum) for 4 years plus tuition fees at UK/EU rate.


Zapotoczna et al., (2018). Mobile-Genetic-Element-Encoded Hypertolerance to Copper Protects Staphylococcus aureus from Killing by Host Phagocytes. mBio 9:e00550-189.

Purves et al., (2018). A horizontally gene transferred copper resistance locus confers hyper-resistance to antibacterial copper toxicity and enables survival of community acquired methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus USA300 in macrophages. Environ Microbiol 20, 1576-1589.

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