Metabolite profiling and bacterial community structures in polymicrobial infections

   Department of Genetics and Genome Biology

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  Dr Christian Jenul, Dr Katrin Schilcher  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Additional Supervisor: Dr Freya Harrison, University of Warwick

This project seeks to understand how bacterial pathogens from polymicrobial infections interact with each other and how these interactions shape infection progress and outcome. We will use bacterial pathogens that frequently co-infect the lungs of people with a genetic condition called cystic fibrosis (CF). These bacterial pathogens secrete metabolites into the infection environment, which allow them to compete or cooperate with other microbial organisms. We will use a unique porcine ex vivo lung model to re-create the CF lung environment and subsequently apply microscopy, mass spectrometry guided metabolite analysis and bacterial genetics to i) unravel how co-infecting bacterial pathogens influence each other’s behaviour, ii) how this influences the dynamics of the infection and iii) how these processes are stirred by secreted metabolites. The successful student will receive hands-on training in bacterial genetics, mass spectrometry and metabolite analysis and get the chance to work with an established ex vivo lung model. Understanding the dynamic processes that shape the interaction between bacterial pathogens will ultimately help the development of new treatment strategies for polymicrobial infections.


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To apply please refer to

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

The competition funding provides students with:
4 years of stipend at UKRI rates
4 years of tuition fees at UK fee rates (Plus one award of a full overseas fee waiver to an international applicant)*
Budget to help with the cost of purchasing a laptop
The University of Leicester will provide full overseas fee waivers for the duration of their study to all international students accepted at Leicester. The funder, UKRI, allows us to appoint up to 30% overseas students.


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2. Mahenthiralingam, E., Urban, T. A. & Goldberg, J. B. The multifarious, multireplicon Burkholderia cepacia complex. Nat Rev Microbiol 3, 144-156, doi:10.1038/nrmicro1085 (2005).
3. Drevinek, P. & Mahenthiralingam, E. Burkholderia cenocepacia in cystic fibrosis: epidemiology and molecular mechanisms of virulence. Clin Microbiol Infect 16, 821-830, doi:10.1111/j.1469-0691.2010.03237.x (2010).
4. Courtney, J. M. et al. Clinical outcome of Burkholderia cepacia complex infection in cystic fibrosis adults. J Cyst Fibros 3, 93-98, doi:10.1016/j.jcf.2004.01.005 (2004).
5. Biswas L, Gotz F. Molecular Mechanisms of Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas Interactions in Cystic Fibrosis. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2021;11:824042.
6. Sweeney E, et al. An ex vivo cystic fibrosis model recapitulates key clinical aspects of chronic Staphylococcus aureus infection. Microbiology (Reading). 2021;167(1).