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The effect of air pollution on bacterial infection and host-pathogen interaction.

Department of Genetics and Genome Biology

Applications accepted all year round Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
Leicester United Kingdom Cell Biology Microbiology Molecular Genetics

About the Project

This project is at the cutting edge of investigations of the increase in infection resulting from airborne pollution.

Air pollution is the world’s largest single environmental health risk, being responsible for an eighth of all global deaths per year (World Health Organisation, 2017).

Our studies showed that exposure to particulate matter (PM) a key component of air pollution alters respiratory tract bacteria colonisation, and induces changes in Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation and importantly altered the tolerance of biofilms to antibiotics (Hussey et al., 201).

Our recent data show that PM alters the biofilms and adherence to human epithelial cells of several other respiratory pathogens and alters bacterial regulatory responses. Additionally, we have shown that exposure to different particle pollutants, such as brake dust, also alters bacterial biofilm formation. However, we do not know how PM causes these responses.

Therefore, the aim of this project is to further explore how PM affects pathogen colonisation and virulence increasing our understanding of how air pollution causes increased infectious disease.

Objectives are:

1. Identify the regulatory mechanisms involved in the bacterial adaptive response to PM.

2. Establish the effect of PM on bacteria-host interaction.

The student will be part of a lively and friendly interdisciplinary research group and will be trained in a wide range of molecular microbiology techniques including transcriptional analysis, tissue culture, chemical analyses, electron and fluorescence microscopy. The student will benefit from the active links and project related meetings with respiratory and infectious disease clinicians.

Entry requirements:

• Those who have a 1st or a 2.1 undergraduate degree in a relevant field are eligible.

• Evidence of quantitative training is required. For example, AS or A level Maths, IB Standard or Higher Maths, or university level maths/statistics course.

• Those who have a 2.2 and an additional Masters degree in a relevant field may be eligible.

• Those who have a 2.2 and at least three years post-graduate experience in a relevant field may be eligible.

• Those with degrees abroad (perhaps as well as postgraduate experience) may be eligible if their qualifications are deemed equivalent to any of the above

• University English language requirements apply.

Application advice:

Application enquiries to

Funding Notes


Hussey et al., 2018. Air pollution alters Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae biofilms, antibiotic tolerance, and colonisation. (2017) Environmental Microbiology 19:1868-1880.

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