Bacterial infections remain a major threat to human and animal health. Despite growing concern about transmission of infections between wildlife, livestock and people, we still know very little about the fate of pathogenic bacteria in the environment. In particular, biotic interactions of bacteria with soil-dwelling microorganisms can affect the persistence of evolution of pathogens and impact the virulence of spillover in animals or humans. Combining experimental and mathematical methods, we use the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model host for bacteria, including Salmonella and Pseudomonas. Although this system has become a popular way to assess the virulence of bacterial strains using nematode survival as a proxy, its potential to study the ecology of infectious diseases has remained mostly untapped. We have been developing assays and models that combine the dynamics of bacteria at the within-host level with the life history and population dynamics of nematodes as well as transmission of bacteria. We are now planning to develop soil-based microcosm systems, and investigate the metabolic interactions between nematodes and bacteria. This will provide us with a detailed mechanistic framework to study the evolution of bacterial pathogens in soil, and its implications for infectious disease control. The PhD project is flexible, and applicants with an interest in combining experimental and theoretical methods are particularly welcome. Training will be available.
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- Félix, M.-A. and C. Braendle (2010). "The natural history of Caenorhabditis elegans." Current Biology 20(22): R965-R969.
- Tenor, J. L., B. A. McCormick, F. M. Ausubel and A. Aballay (2004). "Caenorhabditis elegans-based screen identifies Salmonella virulence factors required for conserved host-pathogen interactions." Curr Biol 14(11): 1018-1024.