Understanding antibiotic resistance and survival of Pseudomonas aeruginosa during infection


Supervised by: Professor Iain Lamont 

The ever-increasing occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a major threat to human health and has the potential to make infectious diseases untreatable. Pseudomonas aeruginosa infects the lungs of patients with the common genetic disease cystic fibrosis, very markedly reducing both the life expectancy and quality of life of patients. Extended exposure to antibiotics results in the occurrence of strains of the bacteria that have much higher resistance than their ancestral forefathers that initially infected the patients and “superbugs” of this species that are resistant to all current antibiotics are becoming increasingly common. The genetic events that result in adaptation of P. aeruginosa to the lung environment and to multi-drug resistant bacteria are only partially understood.

Two PhD projects are available.

We have recently identified mutations in P. aeruginosa that increase the antibiotic resistance of the bacteria through previously unrecognized mechanisms. In the first research project the student will investigate how these mutations cause increased antibiotic resistance. Defining a new mechanism of antibiotic resistance in P. aeruginosa may identify new strategies for treating this and other bacterial infections.

P. aeruginosa needs to acquire nutrients to be able to successfully survive in the lung environment. One problematic nutrient for the bacteria is iron acquisition and it employs multiple mechanisms to obtain the essential metal. Interference with iron uptake is being investigated as a possible new anti-Pseudomonas strategy. We have shown that iron uptake pathways used by the bacteria during infection can be quite different to those that predominate in the research laboratory. The aim of the second research project is to better understand the iron uptake and metabolism of P. aeruginosa in infection.

 These projects will involve a combination of bioinformatic, genetic, molecular biological, biochemical and microbiological approaches. Candidates should have prior research expertise in at least some of these methodologies.