University College London Featured PhD Programmes
University of Kent Featured PhD Programmes
University of Kent Featured PhD Programmes
University College London Featured PhD Programmes
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Featured PhD Programmes

Resistant rivers: can antimicrobial resistance spread through our river networks?

  • Full or part time
    Dr J U Kreft
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 10, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The widespread use of antibiotics in humans and animals and as growth promoters for livestock has not only selected for resistance genes but also for plasmids carrying them. This has led to a growing global concern for the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which would have enormous public health implications for nations of all income and development levels. This project would enable the student to gain inter-disciplinary training and mentoring to tackle a largely unknown but critical link in the spread of AMR, namely if and to what extent AMR can persist in our river networks. Using the Thames river in the UK as a test case, this project will provide the first assessment of how and when AMR can enter, persist, and be transported, within a large rural to urban river system.
Resistance genes can enter the environment via hotspots such as hospital sewers, wastewater treatment plants and animal manures and slurries on farms. Runoff from these fields and effluent from wastewater treatment enter rivers and can there interact with river sediments. In addition, large rainfall and runoff events can overwhelm storm drainage and wastewater treatment systems, allowing untreated sewage to enter river systems directly.
Building on previous work, this project will develop a mechanistic mathematical model to better understand resistance selection and transport from where it enters the river network, within the river itself, and its downstream transport. Importantly, this model will be placed in context of the hydrological functioning of the Thames catchment, and also incorporate the large metagenomic sequencing and antibiotic concentration datasets available throughout the catchment.

Funding Notes

CENTA studentships are for 3.5 years and are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). In addition to the full payment of their tuition fees, successful candidates will receive the following financial support.
• Annual stipend, set at £15,009 for 2019/20
• Research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000


Hellweger FL, Clegg RJ, Clark JR, Plugge CM, Kreft J-U (2016). Advancing microbial sciences by individual-based modelling. Nature Reviews Microbiology 14: 461–471

Kreft J-U (2014). Mathematical modelling of plasmid dynamics. In: Bell E, Bond J, Klinman J, Masters B, Wells R (eds), Molecular Life Sciences: An Encyclopedic Reference. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg

Schmidt SI, Kreft J-U, Mackay R, Picioreanu C, Thullner M (2018). Elucidating the impact of micro-scale heterogeneous bacterial distribution on biodegradation. Advances in Water Resources 116: 67–76

Amos GCA, Hawkey PM, Gaze WH, Wellington EM (2014). Waste water effluent contributes to the dissemination of CTX-M-15 in the natural environment. The Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 69: 1785–1791

Amos GCA, Zhang L, Hawkey PM, Gaze WH, Wellington EM (2014). Functional metagenomic analysis reveals rivers are a reservoir for diverse antibiotic resistance genes. Veterinary Microbiology 171: 441–447

Amos GCA, Gozzard E, Carter CE, Mead A, Bowes MJ, Hawkey PM, Zhang L, Singer AC, Gaze WH, Wellington EMH (2015). Validated predictive modelling of the environmental resistome. ISME Journal 9: 1467–1476

Lehmann K, Bell T, Bowes MJ, Amos GCA, Gaze WH, Wellington EMH, Singer AC (2016). Trace levels of sewage effluent are sufficient to increase class 1 integron prevalence in freshwater biofilms without changing the core community. Water Research 106: 163–170

Singer AC, Shaw H, Rhodes V, Hart A (2016). Review of Antimicrobial Resistance in the Environment and Its Relevance to Environmental Regulators. Frontiers in Microbiology 7: 1728

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