The foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes is an important contaminant of food products and associated supply chains, and has caused significant outbreaks of disease through consumption of contaminated food products. These outbreaks are typically characterised by high mortality rates of 20-30%. With foodborne transmission the primary route of human infection, effective control of this bacterial pathogen in food production is critical.
The capacity for strains of L. monocytogenes to persist over long periods in food processing environments has been well documented (Fox et al., 2011a; Fox et al., 2015), and can lead to increased risk of recontamination of associated food products. However, understanding of the genetic and environmental mechanisms underlying this persistence phenotype are limited; resistance to disinfectants may contribute to this (Fox et al., 2011b), and recent work has shown that microbial communities can influence colonisation patterns, including mixed-species biofilm dynamics (Fox et al., 2014).
In this project, Next-Generation Sequencing technologies coupled with targeted genetic manipulation of strains will be utilised to study strains known to persist over periods of years in food processing environments. Omics approaches and bioinformatics analyses, such as Genome Wide Association Studies, will be employed to identify key genetic markers contributing to the persistence phenotype, and this will be coupled with targeted mutagenesis to evaluate their contribution. This research will further our understanding of environmental persistence of this key human pathogen, and help inform novel biocontrol approaches that can be utilised to control it in food supply chains.
The Candidate will ideally will have skills in microbiological techniques, and gain experience in microbiology, food safety, genomic and bioinformatics.
Keywords: Listeria monocytogenes, Food, Microbiology, Persistence, Next Generation Sequencing, Bioinformatics.
Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.
For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/research/postgraduate-research-degrees/how-to-apply/
Please note: Applications should include a covering letter that includes a short summary (500 words max.) of a relevant piece of research that you have previously completed and the reasons you consider yourself suited to the project. Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF20/…) will not be considered.
Deadline for applications: 1st July for October start, or 1st December for March start
Start Date: October or March
Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.
For enquiries, contact Dr Edward Fox ([email protected]
Fox, E., K. Hunt, M. O'Brien, and K. Jordan. 2011a. Listeria monocytogenes in Irish Farmhouse cheese processing environments. International Journal of Food Microbiology 145 Suppl 1:S39-45.
Fox, E. M., N. Leonard, and K. Jordan. 2011b. Physiological and transcriptional characterization of persistent and nonpersistent Listeria monocytogenes isolates. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 77(18):6559-6569.
Fox, E. M., K. Solomon, J. E. Moore, P. G. Wall, and S. Fanning. 2014. Phylogenetic profiles of in-house microflora in drains at a food production facility: comparison and biocontrol implications of Listeria-positive and -negative bacterial populations. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 80(11):3369-3374.
Fox, E. M., P. G. Wall, and S. Fanning. 2015. Control of Listeria species food safety at a poultry food production facility. Food Microbiology 51:81-86.
Gray, J., Chandry, P.S., Kaur, M., Kocharuncitt, J., Bowman, J., Fox, E. M. 2018. Novel biocontrol methods for Listeria monocytogenes biofilms in food production facilities. Frontiers in Microbiology 9:605.