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PhD Studentship Opportunity in Antimicrobial resistance transmission in the environment: the role of soil as a reservoir and conduit in the transmission of AMR


Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences

About the Project

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an on-going global health threat; and similar to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, has a significant impact on public health and the global economy. If no action is taken, an estimated 10 million deaths per annum will arise from infections caused by resistant microorganisms by 2050. It is now widely recognised that global efforts to control the spread of resistant microorganisms must utilise a One Health-based approach. This approach permits a collaborative examination of how resistant pathogens can spread between humans, animals and the environment.

The contamination of the environment, specifically water bodies and soil, by antimicrobials, including antibiotic resistant bacteria (ABR) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARG), is attributable to human activity. These include the disposal of human and animal waste, pharmaceutical manufacturing waste, and use of antimicrobials as pesticides in crops. The presence of ABR and ABG in the environment increases the potential for onwards dissemination, colonisation and establishment of infection in human and animal populations.

Many bacteria which are implicated in important, and recalcitrant human and animal infections have been isolated in water bodies and the soil. Amongst these are Enterobacteriaceae, which are ubiquitous and members are commensal and/or pathogenic gut dwellers (enteric bacteria). Species such as E. coli and Klebsiella spp. are commonly associated with important resistance genes, including extended spectrum -lactamase (ESBLs) and carbapenemases (CPEs) that confer resistance to third generation cephalosporins and the carbapenem antibiotics, respectively. Although there is ample evidence-based information on the global spread of these clinically important resistant enteric bacteria in human, and animal populations, the potential for soil as an environmental reservoir is understudied. There are gaps in our understanding of the impact of ABR and ABGs in the soil and the risk this poses to human and animal health. Thus, more research is needed to address these knowledge gaps and evaluate the risks to human, animal and environmental health.

Therefore, this PhD project will use a multi-method approach to evaluate the importance of the soil as a reservoir and conduit for the transmission of antibiotic selected resistant enteric bacteria and selected -lactamase genes (including ESBLs and CPEs). Specifically, the student will receive training in the use of a selection of culture- and PCR-based profiling, 16sRNA, single-genome and metagenome sequencing and analyses to answer the research questions.

This is a four year project, commencing in either October 2020 or January 2021.

Entry requirements:
First Class or Upper Second-class BSc or in Master’s level degree (or international equivalent, merit or disntnction) in Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Veterinary Biosciences or related fields. Prior experience in research or industry may also be acceptable.
IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6 in each individual category.

How to apply:
Applications should be made via the Biosciences and Medicine PhD course page: https://www.surrey.ac.uk/postgraduate/biosciences-and-medicine-phd#apply
The studentship title and supervisor must be included in your application to be considered.

Funding Notes

This call is for self-funded students.

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