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Investigation of volatile signalling molecules from interactions between Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans in lung infection

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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  Dr Tim Felton, Dr S Fowler, Dr Waqar Ahmed  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans are commensal microbes which can become pathogenic and cause serious illness, especially in hospitalised patients. Both microbes are commonly identified together in polymicrobial infections, which may include drug resistant strains, increasing mortality rates and healthcare burden (Harriott and Noverr 2009). Investigating interactions between the two microbes will give novel insights into cellular signalling mechanisms and could lead to discovery of novel drug targets and development of diagnostic biomarkers. Microbial volatile organic compounds have shown to act as signalling molecules and regulate pathogenesis (Davis-Hanna et al. 2008).

The prospective student will build on recent work in our lab by sampling volatiles from microbial cultures (Ahmed et al. 2018, Lawal et al. 2018). Samples will be analysed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and together with machine learning data processing methods, produce and evaluate volatilome profiles which relate to changes in cellular metabolism, morphogenesis, antimicrobial resistance, and polymicrobial infection of human lung cell lines. Data will then be compared with exhaled breath samples collected from critically ill patients. Potential biomarkers will be further investigated to develop diagnostic tests for early identification of infection towards personalised treatment.

Entry Requirements

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area/subject. Candidates with previous laboratory experience are particularly encouraged to apply.

How To Apply

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select the appropriate subject title.

For international students, we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website”

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 3 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website (


Harriott, M. M., & Noverr, M. C. (2009). Candida albicans and Staphylococcus aureus form polymicrobial biofilms: Effects on antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 53(9), 3914–3922. doi:10.1128/AAC.00657-09 Davis-Hanna, A., Piispanen, A. E., Stateva, L. I., & Hogan, D. A. (2008). Farnesol and dodecanol effects on the Candida albicans Ras1-cAMP signalling pathway and the regulation of morphogenesis. Molecular Microbiology, 67(1), 47–62. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.06013.x
Ahmed WM, Geranios P, White IR, Bromley M, Lawal O, Nijsen T, Goodacre R, Read N, Fowler SJ. Development of an adaptable headspace sampling method for metabolic profiling of the fungal volatome. Analyst 2018 DOI: 10.1039/C8AN00841H Lawal O, Knobel H,
Weda H, Bos LD, Nijsen TME, Goodacre R, Fowler SJ. Volatile organic compound signature from co-culture of lung epithelial cell line with Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Analyst. 2018 Jul 7;143(13):3148-3155. doi: 10.1039/c8an00759d.
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