PhD project: Using Viruses to Kill Bacteria

Project description

Bacteriophages (phage) are viruses that prey on bacteria. In recent years they have gained increasing attention as antibacterial agents in a range of health, food and agriculture contexts. This is particularly relevant with the rise of antimicrobial resistance, which is the evolution in bacteria of resistance to our antibiotic drugs. Phage offer several advantages over traditional antibiotics, e.g., they multiply by reproducing inside bacteria, so that a very small dose can be effective; they themselves evolve to overcome bacterial resistance; and they are tightly targeted to a particular host so that they do not harm the natural and beneficial microbial population at the treatment site. However, these factors also make phage-bacterial dynamics more difficult to understand, particularly their ability to grow and evolve. At the same time this makes phage-bacterial dynamics an interesting and important subject for physical and mathematical analysis.

I am looking for a PhD student to study experimentally or theoretically, or both, various open-ended questions relating to how phages interact with bacteria, with the aim of improving existing antibacterial products and developing new ones. Example questions include: the coevolution of resistance and counter-resistance measures; the spread of bacteriophages through complex environments such as bacterial biofilms (colonies); the relationship between bacteriophages and traditional antibiotics, e.g., how does one quantitatively compare or predict the efficacy of phage treatments, particularly when phage cocktails (treatments containing multiple phage types) are employed. Experimental work will involve statistical analysis of phage population dynamics and long-term evolution experiments, coupled with microscopy to understand the phage-bacterial interactions in detail. Theoretical work will consist of analytical calculations and numerical modeling.

Project supervisor

  • (School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Edinburgh)

The project supervisor welcomes informal enquiries about this project.

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