This PhD project is focusing on the ecology and evolution of antimicrobial resistance in opportunistic pathogens.
It will test the effects of anthropogenic pollution on opportunistic pathogen virulence, and whether these coincide with a change in antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
Using a range of environments, the study will test factors that may increase exposure to virulent opportunistic pathogens by facilitating their colonisation of new habitats. The Galleria mellonella insect infection model will be used to test for virulence.
AMR is a growing problem with associated deaths predicted to increase to 10 million by 2050. Opportunistic pathogens are an important area of focus because they are capable of rapid evolution to new selective pressures and can readily evolve resistance.
As antimicrobials are produced by other microorganisms in environments, cellular mechanisms to develop AMR may already be present or might be adapted from mechanisms that have evolved to resist other factors, such as high levels of heavy metals.
Artificially-created 5-species communities in broth, microcosms containing river sediment, and reedbed sampling will all be used to test hypotheses in highly controlled ways, also allowing this project to assess the relevance of its findings in natural scenarios.