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  Investigating the role of lactate in tuberculosis disease

   Institute of Inflammation and Ageing

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  Dr Alba Llibre Serradell, Prof Claudio Mauro  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

About the project

We are seeking talented, hard-working and motivated students with a passion for research in Immunology, Metabolism and Infectious diseases to join the team led by Dr Alba Llibre (

Tuberculosis (TB) is a pathogen infecting macrophages in the lung where it can persist for decades. It is a major global public health challenge affecting 10 million people in 2019, with 1.4 million deaths, despite vaccination and available treatments. The emergence of multidrug resistant TB and new antibiotic resistance strains exacerbate disease burden. Macrophages are capable of bactericidal activity towards Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb), an essential mechanism for infection control. To design novel host-directed therapies, a better understanding of how M.tb infection impacts host immune responses is crucial.

Lungs of M.tb-infected hosts are lactate-rich environments. We were among the first to show that lactate is an active signalling molecule and that macrophages respond to it through different transporters and receptors with the activation of pro- or anti-inflammatory responses, depending on the context. We have a poor understanding of how lactate shapes macrophage responses to M.tb and how this dictates infection outcome. The current hypothesis is that lactate in TB lungs promotes macrophage-mediated M.tb killing. To this end we need to investigate the impact of lactate on macrophage function and M.tb infection resolution. Exploiting this knowledge could be key for the design of new TB therapies, which are an urgent, unmet need.

The overarching aim of this project is to investigate the impact of lactate on macrophage function and M.tb infection resolution by: 

1. Dissecting the molecular mechanisms by which lactate drives macrophage function.

2. Assessing the therapeutic potential of targeting lactate sensing to treat TB disease.

The candidate will learn a wide array of molecular biology techniques (e.g. Flow cytometry, ELISA, tissue culture) and be trained in cutting-edge microscopy techniques, as well as in the ex vivo precision cut lung tissue slices (PCLTS) infection model (a novel and unique tool to study local human tissue responses). Through an interdisciplinary approach, combining the fields of clinical microbiology, immunology and metabolism and big data, the candidate will focus on answering the urgent question of how immune-metabolic responses impact the host’s ability to resolve M.tb infection. This project represents a unique opportunity to ease the pathway towards novel treatments for an ancient disease, using cutting-edge science in an excellent, supportive research environment.

Working environment and positive research culture

We understand a positive research culture as an essential ingredient of both research excellence and wellbeing of researchers. We have worked hard to create a diverse, inclusive, connected, supported and resilient team. We make sure every team member has ownership of their project while offering the required guidance and support. The candidate will be offered critical, constructive criticism on a regular basis, and full understanding and support of research challenges will be provided.

Person specification

Applicants should have a first or upper second-class degree in a relevant scientific discipline, and be self-funded or have typically applied for, or secured funding for their studies from their government, employer or associated charitable organisations.

How to apply

Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Alba Llibre and Prof Claudio Mauro.

Applications should be directed to Dr Alba Llibre and Prof Claudio Mauro (email [Email Address Removed] and [Email Address Removed]). To apply, please send the following documentation:

-      Detailed CV, including nationality and country of birth. 

-      Covering letter highlighting your experience/capabilities and why you wish to undertake a PhD in the team. 

-      Names, addresses and contact details of two referees.

-      Copies of your degree certificates with transcripts written in English.

-      Evidence of your proficiency in the English language, if applicable.

-      Evidence of scholarship application/funding or independent funding.

Additional information

For additional information on postgraduate studying at University of Birmingham please click -

For additional information on research at the College of Medical and Dental Sciences please click  –

For additional information on research in the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing please click –

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

Only self-funded PhD students will be considered for this project.


1. Llibre A, Smith N, Rouilly V, Musvosvi M, Nemes E, Posseme C, Mabwe S, Charbit B, Kimbung-Mbandi S, Filander E, Africa H, Saint-André V, Bondet V, Bost P, Mulenga H, Bilek N, Albert ML, Scriba TJ, Duffy D. Tuberculosis impacts immune-metabolic pathways resulting in perturbed IL1 responses. Front Immunol. 2022.
2. Certo M*, Llibre A*, Lee W, Mauro C. Understanding lactate sensing and signalling. Trends Endocrinol Metab 2022.
3. Llibre A*, Grudzinska FS*, O’Shea MK, Duffy D, Thickett DR, Mauro C, Scott A. Lactate cross-talk in host-pathogen interactions. Biochem J. 2021.
4. Haas R, Smith J, Rocher-Ros V, Nadkarni S, Montero-Melendez T, D'Acquisto F, Bland EJ, Bombardieri M, Pitzalis C, Perretti M, Marelli-Berg FM, Mauro C. Lactate Regulates Metabolic and Pro-inflammatory Circuits in Control of T Cell Migration and Effector Functions. PLoS Biol. 2015.
5. Pucino V, Certo M, Bulusu V, Cucchi D, Goldmann K, Pontarini E, Haas R, Smith J, Headland SE, Blighe K, Ruscica M, Humby F, Lewis MJ, Kamphorst JJ, Bombardieri M, Pitzalis C, Mauro C. Lactate Buildup at the Site of Chronic Inflammation Promotes Disease by Inducing CD4+ T Cell Metabolic Rewiring. Cell Metab. 2019.

Where will I study?