PhD Studentship Are bacterial pathogens in the coastal zone a threat to human health?

Full time, 3 years
Ref: UEMS0011
Location– based in Cornwall

The European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter Medical School, located in Truro and using laboratory facilities in the Environment and Sustainability building at the nearby Cornwall Campus.

This PhD will study human exposure risk to antibiotic resistant opportunistic bacterial pathogens in bathing waters and associated freshwaters. Waste water treatment plant and farming effluents contribute to pollution in rivers and receiving coastal waters. Microbial pollution includes human or animal associated bacteria which may have acquired resistance during selection in the human or animal host. Chemical pollution includes complex mixtures of pharmaceuticals and personal care products including antibiotic residues, the majority of which are excreted in faces and urine in a bioactive form. Anthropogenic pollution correlates with environmental reservoirs of antibiotic resistant organisms, however it is not clear what contribution dissemination of human / animal evolved organisms or in situ selection for resistance by pharmaceutical residues make to observed reservoirs. It is also not known what risk environmental reservoirs of resistant organisms pose to human health in the context of the global increase in resistance observed in human and veterinary medicine. 

The successful candidate will conduct a systematic review of the literature to assess what is currently known about risk of human exposure, colonisation and infection posed by environmental reservoirs of antibiotic resistant organisms. This will be a major piece of work requiring a high degree of literacy and will be carried out under the supervision of Dr Ruth Garside, Senior Lecturer in Evidence Synthesis. This will be followed by laboratory research, supervised by Dr Will Gaze, to quantify human exposure risks in bathing waters, to elucidate the persistence of resistant organisms in estuarine and coastal sediments and to reveal whether horizontal gene transfer of mobile antibiotic resistance genes occurs in these environments. The successful candidate will receive training in systematic review methods, state of the art molecular microbial ecology and aspects of clinical microbiology.

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The PhD is funded with support from the European Regional Development Fund.

Entry requirements
Applications are invited from suitably qualified graduates, 2:1 or above, in Microbiology, Biological Sciences or similar. International students must also have IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score of 7 and above (or equivalent qualification).

How to apply
Please apply online using the University’s online application system. To apply, please click the ‘Apply’ button below or visit: 

For an informal discussion, please contact Dr Will Gaze on 01872 258166.

Application deadline: Friday 25th January 2013
Start date: 1st March 2013 (or earlier date by negotiation)

Funding available
The successful applicant will normally be an EU national and have a home address in Cornwall for the duration of their studies. The studentship will provide an annual stipend of £17,290 for three years, with the student responsible for paying their own tuition fees (£3,850 for UK/EU students in 2012/13).      

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