Development of novel microbiome-based strategies for biocontrol of C. difficile. (NARBAD_Q22MMB)

Applications Close: 17 January 2022

Salary: MRC stipend

Contract Length: 4 years

Clostridioides difficile is the most common cause of hospital-acquired life-threatening infections and the incidence has escalated in recent years due to the high number of patients on broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy. While antibiotic treatment is effective, ~28% of the patients suffer from relapse. C. difficile is also becoming resistant to many of the antibiotics, and alternatives to antibiotic treatment are urgently required. One such strategy, is the use of faecal therapy where gut microbes from a healthy donor is given to patients to reconstitute a healthy gut microbiome that can resist proliferation of C. difficile. Recent studies of faecal therapy suggest a greater than 90% success rate, particularly in those patients suffering from chronic relapse. However, faecal therapy is aesthetically unappealing to patients and the healthcare workers, and there are also potential risks of transferring unknown pathogens from the donor to the patient.

The aim of this project is to develop a cocktail of bacteriophages or bacterial metabolites that can be formulated as a defined treatment to give a safer, more appealing alternative to faecal transplantation. Such cocktails will be designed to modulate the gut microbiome which result in protection against C. difficile infections. The effective designed formulations will then be optimised with the objective of developing human trials in the future. This is an iCASE multidisciplinary project working in collaboration with researchers at QIB and the Industry partner The Functional Gut Clinic based in Cambridge. The student will be based in Prof Narbad group laboratory and work closely with Dr Adriaenssens who has expertise in gut viruses. They will gain skills in gut microbiome bioinformatics of bacterial and virome metagenomics as well as anaerobic microbiology and metabolomics.

The Microbes, Microbiomes and Bioinformatics (MMB) Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) is open to UK and international candidates with an undergraduate degree relevant to the scope of the programme for entry in October 2022 and offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year PhD research project funded by the UKRI Medical Research Council to advance the training of students in microbiology, with an emphasis on microbial bioinformatics.

The distinctive training offered by the programme aims to ensure that students feel comfortable running sophisticated computer analyses alongside laboratory work whilst enhancing problem-based learning in microbial bioinformatics and professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. The student will undertake a placement with the non-academic partner totalling 3-18 months.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the MMB DTP programme. Interviews for shortlisted candidates will take place on Tuesday 15 February or Wednesday 16 February 2022.

This MMB DTP is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion in all areas of the programme. We encourage enquiries and applications from all sections of the community, regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, and transgender status. We value an aptitude for computer-based analysis, curiosity, and independence of thought, plus a commitment to work across the boundaries between the laboratory and bioinformatics to deliver high-impact research. We welcome applicants from low- and middle-income countries.

For information on eligibility and how to apply view ourĀ MMB webpage.