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Klebsiella pneumoniae type VI secretion system: antimicrobial resistance, and virulence genes dissemination.

Project Description

Type VI secretion systems (T6SS) kill bacteria and shape microbial populations. Klebsiella pneumoniae is regarded as a global threat to human health due to increasing number of isolates resistant to antibiotics. Alarmingly, recent studies have recognized that K. pneumoniae strains have access to a mobile pool of antimicrobial resistance genes and virulence genes; enabling the emergence of a multidrug, hypervirulent K. pneumoniae clone capable of causing untreatable infections in healthy individuals. We have recently characterized the T6SS of a hypervirulent K. pneumoniae strain, and demonstrated its role in intra and inter bacterial species, and anti-fungal competition.

This 3.5-year PhD project will dissect two processes of utmost clinical relevance:

(i) the dissemination of antimicrobial genes, and
(ii) the transfer of virulence factors.

We will test the hypothesis that an active T6SS limits the dissemination of antimicrobial genes and virulence factors. By exploiting a multidisciplinary approach bridging genomics, biochemistry, molecular microbiology and high content imaging, this project will generate mechanistic insights into how Klebsiella resolves this conflict between transfer and acquisition of genetic material, and the antimicrobial function of the T6SS by controlling the expression of the system. In doing so, we will also characterize the antibacterial function of the main T6SS effectors shared by multiple Klebsiella clinical isolates.

We are looking for graduates who are enthusiastic and strongly motivated to use the most innovative approaches to address key global challenges in infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistance, animal health, climate change and sustainability. Applicants should have a degree in biological sciences or a related discipline.


The minimum academic requirement is an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider (or qualifications deemed equivalent by the University).

Students wishing to apply to Queen’s University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language) must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. For more information on English Language requirements see

Funding Notes

The studentship will be funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE). Please read the full information on eligibility criteria: View Website

However, there may be flexibility to fund a small number of exceptional International applicants.

General enquiries about the programme may be directed to .


Please visit the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Centre for Experimental Medicine, website for further details about the Centre:

When applying, please choose 'MEDICINE' as your subject area/School.

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