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Medical Research Foundation National PhD Training Programme in Antimicrobial Resistance Research: Reducing Antibiotic Resistance on Dairy Farms

Project Description

Farming has been identified as a potential source of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria or AMR genes that may impact human health. Whether this is a genuine threat or not, UK farmers are keen to reduce the prevalence of AMR bacteria, particularly bacteria carrying transferable resistance to critically important antimicrobials.

On dairy farms, the prevalence of AMR bacteria is generally low. We hypothesise that one barrier to reducing AMR still further is the recycling of AMR caused when replacement heifers (born on the farm) enter the milking herd. Reducing the colonisation of these replacement heifers with AMR bacteria at birth and in the neonatal environment may therefore be important for the success of measures specifically designed to reduce AMR carriage in dairy cows. In addition, as our current understanding of potential drivers of AMR on dairy farms broadens, other suitable points for intervention aimed at reducing AMR may be identified that are interesting for future work.

This project will take a mixed methods approach to the specific management and microbiological risk factors associated with the cycling and selection of AMR bacteria on dairy farms. On-farm work will allow observation of farm practices and detailed sample collection. In the lab, samples will be processed to yield bacteria which will be phenotypically tested for AMR. In silico, AMR mechanisms and bacterial types identified by whole genome sequencing will be used to define transmission dynamics. Multivariable, multilevel regression modelling approaches will be used to identify risk factors for AMR transmission and selection.

The project would suit someone with a detailed knowledge of farming and a desire to learn laboratory and computer-based analysis, as well as undertake fieldwork. A veterinary degree is not essential. We would expect students to divide their time between Bristol Veterinary School at Langford and the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine in Clifton, Bristol.

Potential applicants interested in further information are encouraged to contact Professor Matthew Avison at or Dr Kristen Reyher at

Benefits of joining the Medical Research Foundation National PhD Training Programme in AMR Research:
• All PhD projects will be based within interdisciplinary research consortia funded by the UKRI Cross-Council AMR Initiative.
• All students will have access to enhanced training opportunities including residential skills and training courses, cohort-building activities, and annual conferences. All are designed to expose students to a range of discipline-specific languages and interdisciplinary research skills, which are essential for enabling them to thrive as multidisciplinary AMR researchers.
• PhD students will undertake a fully-funded 3-month interdisciplinary AMR project allowing them to work outside of their primary research area or an elective placement in industry, publishing, media, policy development or in AMR-relevant charities and organisations.
• All Medical Research Foundation-funded PhD students will also be part of a wider cohort of 150 PhD students from across the UK who are also studying AMR. The cohort will have access to a bespoke, innovative online learning environment, which will facilitate peer-to-peer networking, question setting and mentoring.
Further information can be found on our website:

Applicants must ensure that they meet the eligibility requirements of the University of Bristol. To qualify for Home tuition fee status, you must be a UK or EU citizen who has been resident for 3 years prior to commencement. Please note that overseas students not eligible for Home (UK/EU/EEA citizens) tuition fee status will be eligible for funding through this Programme but the student must pay the difference between the annual Home tuition fee and the tuition fees required for overseas students. Overseas students should be able to demonstrate adequate financial support to cover the difference between the Home/EU fee and the overseas fee. Applicants are also required to meet the University of Bristol’s English language requirements.


As part of your application, you need to choose: Faculty of Life Sciences under the ‘Faculty’ section, and Cellular and Molecular Medicine 4-year PhD programme under the ‘programme choice’ section. Additionally, under ‘funding’ and ‘Research Details’ section, please indicate that you are applying for a Medical Research Foundation National PhD Training Programme in AMR Research funded project and give the project title and names of the supervisors.

Funding Notes

This is 4 year fully-funded PhD studentship funded jointly by the Medical Research Foundation National PhD Training Programme in AMR (led by the University of Bristol) and the University of Bristol. The studentship covers:

• Annual tuition fees at the Home/EU rate
• Stipend at MRC ’plus’ rate £17,000 (2019-20) rising to £18,500 (tax free)
• Yearly travel allowance
• Research costs
• Interdisciplinary 3-month research project/placement allowance

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