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Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacterial pathogens is an important and rising threat in the modern world. As a result, infections are becoming increasingly harder to treat. This in turn reduces the efficiency of the control of infectious diseases and significantly adds to their economic burden (AMR report). It is vital to understand mechanisms of the AMR transfer between pathogens in order to identify AMR prevention strategies. A major process responsible for the spread of AMR between pathogenic bacteria is the horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Three main mechanisms of the HGT exist - transformation, conjugation and transduction. The latter is a method by which bacteriophages transfer DNA between different bacterial hosts. Very little is known about the role of bacteriophages in the transfer of AMR; however, increasing evidence suggests their importance in this process. In a recent study, bacteriophages conferred the antibiotic resistance in Staphylococcus aureus isolated from food sources (Lee, 2015). This has implications for AMR transfer during food-borne bacterial outbreaks. In another study, bacteriophages carrying AMR genes were found in the nasal swabs of over a half of tested hospital patients (Kinga, 2015). These phages were capable of infecting methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) strains and conferring resistance to them. The aim of this project is to improve the understanding of bacteriophage involvement in the horizontal transfer of AMR genes within bacterial communities.

Paul will be taking a multidisciplinary approach to this research, working with Dr Esther Robinson (Clinical Microbiologist) and Prof Matt Keeling (Mathematics)