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Understanding multi-component remedies from historical medical texts


School of Life Sciences

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Dr E Connelly , Dr F Harrison No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

There is an urgent need for novel routes to drug discovery due to the significant increase in antibiotic-resistant microbes (AMR) and the lack of new drugs currently in development to treat antibiotic-resistant infections. For instance, the World Health Organization has issued several press releases and calls for research stating that antimicrobial resistance is 'an increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society.' According to the O'Neill Report on AMR, about 700,000 people around the world die annually due to drug-resistant infections and, if no action is taken, it has been estimated that such infections will kill 10 million people a year by 2050. At present, the UK government has launched a 5-year plan for tackling AMR. This PhD project fits within these calls for novel approaches to new antimicrobial discovery.

Medieval manuscripts contain numerous remedies for microbial infections, and these often involve complex preparations of several ingredients. Medieval infection remedies use ingredients known to possess some antimicrobial or immunomodulatory effects. Further, these recipes prescribe complex preparations of multiple ingredients, with contingencies of treatments for the same symptoms, which is consistent with extensive medical knowledge gained from a tradition of observation and experimentation. Our preliminary data demonstrate the great potential to derive antimicrobials from natural products found within the multi-component remedies of historical sources [see References below].

This PhD project will work within an interdisciplinary framework using skills from textual and data analysis (dry component) in combination with laboratory application. The major objectives include identifying and delivering antimicrobial products from natural sources. This is a novel route to developing new antimicrobial therapeutics in a time of increasing antimicrobial resistance.
Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:
- Data Science: Analysing complex datasets; understanding and refining methodologies for processing historical textual datasets
- Textual Component: Applying historical texts to current issues; interpretation and translation skills; methodologies in the history of medicine
- Microbiology: Bacterial culture; biofilm studies; high-throughput susceptibility testing; eukaryotic tissue culture for toxicity/wound-healing assays; chemical characterisation of natural products

Funding Notes

Studentship includes: fees, a tax-free stipend of at least £15,009 p.a (to rise in line with UKRI recommendation); a travel allowance in year 1; a travel / conference budget; a generous consumables budget and use of a MacBook Pro for the duration of the programme. In order to apply you must ensure that you are eligible.

References

Connelly E, del Genio CI, Harrison F. Data Mining a Medieval Medical Text Reveals Patterns in Ingredient Choice That Reflect Biological Activity against Infectious Agents. Mbio 11, e03136-19 (2020)

Connelly E. A Case Study of Plantago in the Treatment of Infected Wounds in the Middle English Translation of Bernard of Gordon’s Lilium medicinae. In: New Approaches to Disease, Disability, and Medicine in Medieval Europe, Studies in Early Medicine series, eds, Connelly E, Künzel S. (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2018).

Harrison F, Roberts AE, Gabrilska R, Rumbaugh KP, Lee C, Diggle SP. A 1,000-Year-Old antimicrobial remedy with antistaphylococcal activity. MBio 6, e01129 (2015).

Harrison F and Connelly E, ‘Could Medieval Medicine Help the Fight Against Antimicrobial Resistance?’ in Chris Jones; Conor Kostick; and Klaus Oschema (eds), Making the Medieval Relevant (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019)

Watkins F, Pendry B, Sanchez-Medina A, Corcoran O. Antimicrobial assays of three native British plants used in Anglo-Saxon medicine for wound healing formulations in 10th century England. J Ethnopharmacol 144, 408-415 (2012).
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