Are bacteria building toxic biofilms in your gut? (NARBAD_Q21DTP2)

Applications Close: 23 November 2020

Salary: stipend rate: £15,285

Contract Length: 4 years

Think of a corroded pipe. Now think of an inflamed gut. These conditions may be caused by similar bacteria. Sulphate reducing bacteria (SRB) are anaerobic bacteria, common in the environment and the gastrointestinal tract. They produce corrosive hydrogen sulphide gas, which is known to attack metal structures and cause problems in industry. Recent work has also suggested they may be involved in gut inflammation in diseases like ulcerative colitis, and colorectal cancers.

Biofilm formation allows bacteria to grow in a protected state with higher resistance to antibiotics. Biofilms are often associated with harmful effects such as increased pathogenesis or material corrosion. Understanding SRB lifestyle and how to prevent deleterious or antibiotic-resistant growth forms is an essential step for the design of biocontrol strategies.

This project aims to use SRB strains from the gut and the environment to investigate the nature of SRB biofilms and to explore the role of SRB biofilms in gastrointestinal tract colonisation, persistence and impact on the severity of ulcerative colitis. The mechanisms underpinning biofilm formation and quorum sensing will be explored using molecular microbiology, metatranscriptomics and advanced microscopy. The student will also acquire analytical and in vivo experimental skills. This work will help to identify targets to stop or disperse biofilm formation in the gut environment.

The applicant will join the diverse and dynamic interdisciplinary teams of the Narbad and Juge groups at Quadram Institute Bioscience, working on biocontrol strategies and deciphering the interactions between the gut microbiota and human health. The workplan will involve training in state-of-the-art techniques of biofilm analysis, anaerobic microbiology, metagenomics sequencing, molecular microbiology and bioinformatics. We are looking for a highly self-motivated individual who is capable of independent thinking with an aptitude for laboratory work and a strong interest in microbiology and gut health.


Wegmann U, Nueno Palop C, Mayer MJ, Crost E, Narbad A (2017) Complete Genome Sequence of Desulfovibrio piger FI11049. Genome Announc 5:e01528-16.

Sayavedra L, Li T, Bueno Batista M, Seah BKB, Booth C, Zhai Q, Chen W, Narbad A Desulfovibrio diazotrophica sp. nov., a sulphate reducing bacterium from the human gut capable of nitrogen fixation. bioRxiv preprint doi:

Garcia-Gutierrez E, Walsh CJ, Sayavedra L, Diaz-Calvo T, Thapa D, Ruas-Madiedo P, Mayer MJ, Cotter PD, Narbad A. (2020) Genotypic and Phenotypic Characterization of fecal Staphylococcus epidermidis isolates suggests plasticity to adapt to different human body sites. Front Microbiol 11:688.

Entry Requirements:
At least UK equivalence Bachelors (Honours) 2:1 or UK equivalence Master’s degree. English Language requirement (Faculty of Science equivalent: IELTS 6.5 overall, 6 in each category).

This project is awarded with a 4-year Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD studentship. The studentship includes payment of tuition fees (directly to the University), a stipend for each year of the studentship (2020/21 stipend rate: £15,285), and a Research Training Support Grant for each year of the studentship of £5,000 p.a..

About The Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP)
The Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) is open to UK and international candidates for entry October 2021 and offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year PhD research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP students undertake a three-month professional internship placement (PIPS) during their study. The placement offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the NRPDTP programme. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on Thursday 7th January, Friday 8th January and Monday 11th January 2021.

Visit our website for further information on eligibility and how to apply:

Our partners value diverse and inclusive work environments that are positive and supportive. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.