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Phytochemicals as safe and sustainable antibiotic alternative for effective control of pathogenic organisms in humans and animals


   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr C Situ, Dr J Chin, Prof R La Ragione  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The use of antibiotics in livestock has significantly contributed to animal health and welfare as well as high quality of food production in modern farming but has also been linked to the rapid development and global spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The agri-food industry is currently under tremendous pressure to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock production and actively seeking for alternatives to maintain productivity. The growing need for novel antibiotics fuels a resurgence of interest in exploring antimicrobial alternatives from natural products.

Plant-based natural products have historically been used as powerful therapeutic agents against pathogenic organisms and continued to serve as a fruitful source of novel drugs. Plants are known to produce vast quantities of small molecules (phytochemicals) which work synergistically against microbial attacks from the environment. The developed plant-derived antibiotic alternatives are not only safe and effective for the control of animal and zoonotic pathogens but are less prone to develop resistance, thus supporting the sustainable production of safe and quality animal food products.

The proposed research seeks to develop natural, effective and sustainable solutions to address the global challenges of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), animal health and welfare, and food safety. Medicinal plants will be screened for their in vitro antibacterial activity using the standard broth microdilution method. Plants displaying low to moderate minimum inhibitory concentration will be tested in combination with therapeutic antibiotics to select the most potent plant candidates for further characterisation including cytotoxicity profiling and mode of antibacterial mechanism studies using conventional and advanced analytical instrumentation. The developed plant-derived antibiotic alternatives are not only safe and effective for the control of animal and zoonotic pathogens but are less prone to develop resistance, thus supporting the sustainable production of safe and quality animal food products. A range of specific training including microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology and biotechnology will be provided throughout the PhD programme. Microbiological techniques are prerequisite for effective management of infectious disease to tackle animal health and welfare issues. Skill in natural drug development helps combat AMR concern by reducing the need and use of critically important antimicrobials.

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Duration: 3 years

How to apply: Applications must be submitted via: https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php

Skills/experience required: Research experience and basic laboratory and microbiology skills are required.

Note: This project is in competition for DfE funding with a number of other projects. A selection process will determine the strongest candidates across the range of projects, who may then be offered funding for their chosen project.


Funding Notes

Candidates must hold a UK 2.1 Bachelor's degree or qualifications considered to be equivalent by the University.
Candidates must also be normally resident in the UK for the three year period prior to 1 October 2022. For non-EU nationals, the main purpose of residence must not have been to receive full-time education. Non-UK or Irish nationals must also have pre-settled or settled status (EU nationals) or settled status (non-EU nationals).
Full eligibility criteria: https://www.economy-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/economy/Postgraduate-studentships-terms-and-conditions.pdf
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