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Queen’s DTP: Understanding the Importance of Early Life Exposure to Antimicrobial Resistance Genes, Organisms, and Residues on Development of the Infant Gut Microbiome

School of Biological Sciences

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Dr S Cameron , Dr D Gilpin No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Belfast United Kingdom Biochemistry Epidemiology Genetics Microbiology Molecular Biology

About the Project

This project opportunity is offered as part of the Queen's Doctoral Training Programme - Multi-dimensional approaches to understanding microbe/host interactions in the context of disease, therapeutics and community resilience. For more information, please visit:

The threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) from pathogens across domains of life is now a present-day danger. However, much of the focus on AMR in humans is on the threat in the developed world of AMR on current healthcare practices and the requirement for new antimicrobial drugs. The impact that AMR has on children in the key first 1,000 days of life has received less research and public health focus. Some work has explored the role of antibiotic exposure of infants through pregnancy or during or after birth, but this has typically focused on the impact on the composition of the gut microbiome in infants. The impact of AMR organisms or genes on the long-term function and stability of the gut microbiome has not been explored; nor has the impact of early life nutrition, such as differences between human milk and formula fed infants.

Using a combination of microbial culture, molecular biology, next-generation sequencing, and mass spectrometry, this project aims to answer four questions to understand the importance of early life exposure to antibiotics on the development of the infant gut microbiome: (1) are AMR organisms, genes, and antibiotics present in commercially available formula and can they survive at-home preparation?, (2) are AMR organisms, genes, and antibiotics present in human milk and can they survive donor human milk processing?, (3) is the AMR prevalence different between formula-fed and breastfed infants in the gut microbiome?, and (4) can infant nutrition impact on the emergence of AMR in sub-lethal concentrations of antibiotics?

Candidate requirements: Students should have at least a 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent) in microbiology, biological sciences, or biochemistry. Students with a postgraduate degree (or equivalent) in these areas would be considered favourably, as would demonstrable skills in microbiology culture and molecular biology techniques. A willingness to assist in participant recruitment and sample collection is essential.

Start date: October 2021

Duration: 3.5 years

How to apply:

Applicants for this project must apply to the School of Biological Sciences PhD programme at Queen’s via

Funding Notes

There are a number of competition based studentships available, funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE). These opportunities are primarily available for UK applicants but there will be a small number of awards available for EU/international candidates.

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