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Investigating the role of the biofilm in waste water treatment plants as a reservoir for antimicrobial resistance

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Ref: SHLS20023 Spencer

It has been reported that the rise/spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) will result in the premature deaths of 10 million people every year by 2050. Continual exposure to sub-lethal levels of antibiotics and heavy metals are a primary driver for AMR development and maintenance. An important route for the transfer of AMR into the environment is the sewerage network where the key potential control point is the wastewater treatment plants (WWTP). A study at GCU has shown that erythromycin, clarithromycin and amoxicillin and low concentrations of heavy metals were detected in water throughout the WWTP. Multidrug resistant E. coli and ESBL producers were also identified in the water phase.
The primary treatment of wastewater is via biological degradation occurring in multi-species biofilms at different locations within the WWTP. Biofilms are structurally more tolerant to antimicrobial agents and bacteria within them are continually exposed to these compounds creating a reservoir of AMR bacteria which can be released into the environment or potentiate the transfer of AMR mechanisms to other bacterial species.

This project will investigate the microbiome of the various biofilms used in the WWTP using Next Generation Sequencing Technology and bioinformatics to identify the bacterial composition. The pharmaceutical and heavy metal concentrations of waste water will also be monitored.
Identified bacterial species in the residual biofilms will be exposed to the environmental concentrations of pharmaceuticals to investigate the development of AMR and transfer of genes to known pathogenic species.

Applicants will normally hold a UK honours degree 2:1 (or equivalent); or a Masters degree in microbiology or related discipline. Experience with bioinformatics is desirable. Equivalent professional qualifications and any appropriate research experience may be considered. A minimum English language level of IELTS score of 6.5 (or equivalent) with no element below 6.0 is required.

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