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Lifestyle switching in Pathogenic Bacteria

Principal Supervisor: Professor David Grainger, School of Biosciences

Co-supervisor: Dr Kerstin Voelz, School of Biosciences

PhD project title: Lifestyle switching in Pathogenic Bacteria

University of Registration: University of Birmingham

Project outline:

Vibrio cholerae is the causative agent of Cholera. Millions of cases of the disease occur every year and these are responsible for $3.1 billion dollar financial losses. The 7th Cholera pandemic in recorded history is sweeping the planet and local epidemics are also of concern; the current epidemic in Yemen has amassed half a million cases in six months (

The “success” of V. cholerae depends on its ability to adapt to different surroundings. Normally, the bacterium resides in aquatic environments and persists by forming biofilms on the chitinous surfaces of plankton and shellfish. These biofilms are rapidly disassembled on ingestion by a human or aquatic host. Following host colonisation, disease is caused by the extrusion of toxins (1). Hence, to combat Cholera, it is essential to understand how the bacterium is able to switch between lifestyles; deciphering this process could be exploited to disrupt pathogen ecology or develop vaccines. My laboratory is currently funded to study the V. cholerae lifestyle switch at the level of genes and their regulation. Our work involves the application of bacterial genomics, molecular biology, and host organism colonisation models, to study lifestyle changes. You can read about our application of similar tools to other bacteria in reference 2 below.


  • Nelson, EJ, Harris, JB, Morris, JG, Calderwood, SB, Camilli, A. (2009) Cholera transmission: the host, pathogen and bacteriophage dynamic. Nature Reviews Microbiology 7, 693-702.
  • Haycocks JR, Sharma P, Stringer AM, Wade JT, Grainger DC (2015) The molecular basis for control of ETEC enterotoxin expression in response to environment and host. PLoS Pathog. 11:e1004605.

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Food Security

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

  • Protein purification
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Illuminia Sequencing and associated bioinformatics
  • PCR
  • Radioisotopes
  • Microscopy
  • In vitro DNA binding assays
  • Reporter assays
  • Microbial cell culture
  • Mutagenesis
Contact: Professor David Grainger, School of Biosciences