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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Research project: Microbial interactions in multi-species drinking water biofilm community

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This studentship is investigating the persistence and survival of Pseudomonas aeruginosa wild type, environmental and mutator phenotypes within multispecies natural biofilms derived from drinking water and the effects of biofilm oxidative stress and drinking water disinfection practices such as chlorination and UV treatment on their mutation frequencies and persistence within this system.

Biofilms are complex communities of microorganisms attached to surfaces. The drinking water distribution pipe biofilms are implicated in reducing the aesthetic and microbiological quality of water through continual detachment of biomass into the bulk water. Biofilms are important reservoirs for pathogenic bacteria such as P. aeruginosa which is an important opportunistic pathogen of humans with the ability to form biofilms in drinking water.
A recent finding is that strains of P. aeruginosa obtained from natural biofilms are often Hypermutable due to defective DNA error repair systems. However, the role of mutation frequency in determining survival and fitness of P. aeruginosa within the environment such as the drinking water system has not been explored.
This project therefore investigates how P. aeruginosa interacts and persist within multi-species natural biofilms from drinking water and the effects of biofilm oxidative stress and drinking water disinfection practices on its mutation frequencies and survival within this system.
This will provide new insights into mechanisms by which drinking water biofilms may harbour important pathogenic microorganisms and how these interactions can enhance genetic adaptation and evolution of microbial pathogens.

Funding

Student is self-funding.

Supervisors

This project is supervised by Dr Jeremy Webb and Prof Bill Keevil.

Related research groups

Environmental Biosciences
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