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Phage therapy as a treatment of Equine Strangles, and causative bacterial pathogen Streptococcus equi (ref: SF20/APP/SMITH4)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

About the Project

Streptococcus equi is an important equine bacterial pathogen causing the disease ‘strangles’, which affects both Thoroughbred and non-Thoroughbred horses around the world. There are >600 outbreaks per year in the UK, leading to significant economic and welfare costs to the UK horse industry. The key aim of this research is to further develop a new line of therapy against S. equi using lytic bacteriophages (bacterial viruses). Previous approaches utilised to treat infection with antibiotics is troublesome as there must be an appropriate pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of the drug, which is impossible due to the physiology and sanctuary of S. equi within the abscess. Later treatment is limited to rupture and drainage of these abscesses. S. equi is highly infectious and therefore there are difficulties alongside treatment in site decontamination. We hypothesise that bacteriophages can be exploited as a therapy using a systematic approach to overcome bacterial resistance for both treatment of affected animals and site decontamination.
Lytic phages are a good therapeutic, as they multiply using the bacterium’s cellular machinery leading to cell lysis and release of new viruses, which can then infect the surrounding bacteria. These viruses perpetuate until all bacterial targets are destroyed and thus can be utilised as a therapy, prophylaxis or to attenuate the spread of the infection across a site. This project will support the development of a novel phage therapies against an internationally relevant S. equi collection, including the current ST-151 epidemic strain. The student will learn microbiological and virological approaches to bacteria-phage infection research. They will be trained and use a wide range of Omic approaches to study phage genomes with focus on resistant strains when applying therapy at a genomic level. This project is in collaboration with the Professor Andrew Waller at the Animal Health Trust.

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

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.

Informal enquiries to Dr Darren Smith ()

Funding Notes

This project will be self funded – fee bands are available at View Website . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs


Harris, S.R., Robinson, C., Steward, K. F., Webb, K. S. Paillot, R., Parkhill, J., Holden, M.T.G. and Waller, A.S. (2015). Genome specialization and decay of the strangles pathogen, Streptococcus equi, is driven by persistent infection. Genome Res. Sep 2015 25: 1360-1371; Published in Advance July 9, 2015, doi:10.1101/gr.189803.115

Tariq, M. A., Everest, F. L. C., Cowley, L. A., De Soyza, A., Holt, G. S., Bridge, S. H., Perry, A., Perry, J. D., Bourke, S. J., Cummings, S. P., Lanyon, C. V., Barr, J, J, Smith, D. L. (2015). A metagenomic approach to characterize temperate bacteriophage populations from Cystic Fibrosis and non-Cystic Fibrosis bronchiectasis patients. Frontiers in Microbiology, 6. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2015.00097

Charbonneau, A.R.L., Forman, O.P., Cain, A.K. Newland, G., Robinson, C., Boursnell, M., Parkhill, J., Leigh, J.A., Maskell, D.J. & Waller, A.S. (2017). Defining the ABC of gene essentiality in streptococci. BMC Genomics 18, 426 (2017) doi:10.1186/s12864-017-3794-3

Holt, G. S, Lodge, J, McCarthy, A. J, Graham, A.K, Young, G, Bridge, S. H, Brown, A. K, Veses-Garcia, M, Lanyon, C.V, Sails, A, Allison, H. E. and Smith, D. L. (2017) Shigatoxin encoding Bacteriophage φ24 B modulates bacterial metabolism to raise antimicrobial tolerance Nature Scientific Reports 7, 40424; doi: 10.1038/srep40424 (2017).

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