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The interplay between air pollution, viruses and respiratory disease

Department of Genetics and Genome Biology

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Dr J Morrissey Applications accepted all year round Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Epidemiological studies show associations of air pollution with chronic and infectious respiratory disease. Milder viral infections e.g. coronaviruses can be important triggers of asthma attacks. However, little is known about the mechanisms involved in the combined interaction between air pollution, respiratory infections and exacerbations of chronic respiratory disease.

We will investigate the interactions between air pollutants and viruses in airway epithelial cell lines from both normal and asthmatic patients. Studies will have relevance to more serious respiratory infections e.g. COVID-19 where recent reports suggest associations between COVID-19 severity and air pollution.

The objectives of this project are to:

1. Review the epidemiological associations between air pollution, viral infection and exacerbation of respiratory disease.

2. Determine the impact of pollutants on viral infection of respiratory epithelial cells from healthy and asthmatic patients.

3. Establish the effect of pollutants on the host immune response and viral receptor expression during viral infection.

4. Investigate the impact of glucocorticoids and biologics on virus infectivity and whether pollutants alter the efficacy of the effect.

The student will be part of a unique research team across two universities and will be trained in epidemiology, and molecular techniques including transcriptional/DNA methylation analysis, tissue culture, imaging, flow cytometry.

Deadline 7 Jan 2021

Entry requirements:

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject.

The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable:

How to apply:

To apply for the PhD please refer to the guidelines and use the application link at

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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