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Molecular mechanisms shaping polymicrobial interactions and antibiotic resistance

   Molecular and Cell Biology

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

About the Project

Project highlights

  1. Dynamics of multispecies interactions under different environmental conditions
  2. Identification of determinants and mediators of bacterial interaction
  3. Modulation of virulence and antibiotic resistance in bacterial communities

Project description

Many types of bacterial infections are polymicrobial, meaning that they are caused by several bacterial species (1). Lung infections of cystic fibrosis patients and chronic wounds are examples of well-studied polymicrobial infections, and Staphylococcus aureus is among the most frequent infecting bacterial pathogens in these two types of infections (2). Co-operation and competition between co-infecting microbes are important factors that can decide the infection progress and outcome (3). Whereas some bacterial factors suppress growth of microbial competitors (4), others contribute to antibiotic resistance (5) or allow bacteria to communicate with each other (6). Therefore, bacterial interaction in polymicrobial infections can have profound effects on the infecting microbes and can lead to alterations in gene expression, virulence factor production, bacterial metabolism and antibiotic resistance (7).

The project seeks to decipher how co-infecting bacteria from polymicrobial infections influence S. aureus infection dynamics and antibiotic resistance on the molecular level.

The objectives of this PhD project are to:

  • i) Determine changes in the gene transcription profile of S. aureus during interaction with co-infecting microbes.
  • ii) Elucidate determinants that drive bacterial competition and co-existence in polymicrobial infections.
  • iii) Analyse how bacterial interaction influences staphylococcal virulence and antimicrobial resistance.

The project will provide the student with an excellent set of skills in microbiology and host-pathogen interaction including training in bacterial genetics, transcriptomics, bacterial co-culturing techniques, mass spectrometry analysis and ex vivo and in vivo model systems. Traditionally, bacterial infections have been regarded as monomicrobial, but it has become evident over the last few decades, that the majority of infections are polymicrobial. This project will provide a detailed understanding of the bacterial interaction dynamics that govern polymicrobial infections, which will help in the development of new and more effective treatment strategies for these types of infection.

Entry requirements

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor's Degree 2:1 or better (or overseas equivalent) in microbiology/biological sciences related subject.

The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable.

Project enquiries

Dr Katrin Schilcher [Email Address Removed]

How to Apply

For full application guidance please refer to the following webpage:

Funding Notes

The 3.5 year LeMID Studentship provides:
UK tuition fee waiver
Annual stipend at UKRI rates (Currently £17,668 for 2022/23. TBC for 2023/24)
Access to a Research Training Support Grant of up to £1,500 per annum for 3 years
Bench fees of up to £5,000 per annum for 3 years
*International students will be required to fund the difference between the UK and International tuition fee (£17,250 approx) for the duration of their studies.


Brogden et al., Lancet. 2005. 365:253-255.
Ibberson and Whiteley, Curr Opin Microbiol. 2020. 53:44-50.
Limoli and Hoffman. Thorax. 2019. 74:684-692.
Heilbronner et al., Nat Rev Microbiol. 2021. 19:726-739.
Orazi and O’Toole. mBio. 2017. 8:e00873-17.
Mukherjee and Bassler. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2019. 17:371-382.
Peters et al., Clin Microbiol Rev. 2012. 25:193-213.
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