Deciphering intracellular lifestyles of Staphylococcus aureus to optimize antimicrobial therapies


Project Description

Applications are invited for a research studentship leading to the award of a PhD degree, under the supervision of Dr. Ana Eulalio, to investigate host and bacterial determinants of the various intracellular lifestyles of the bacterial pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, and their impact on pathogenesis and antibiotic treatment.

The post is supported by a bursary and fees (at the UK student rate only) funded by the Department of Life Sciences. The studentship is for 36 months from October 2023 (or soon thereafter).

Staphylococcus aureus is a leading cause of human infections worldwide, causing a broad range of community- and hospital-acquired infections. Although S. aureus is historically considered an extracellular pathogen, substantial evidence demonstrates that S. aureus can be internalized by various cell types. Recently, our lab characterized the interaction of a large collection of S. aureus clinical isolates collected from patients with bone/joint infections, bacteremia, and infective endocarditis with host cells (epithelial and endothelial cells, osteoblasts and macrophages). This analysis revealed that the vast majority of the isolates (98%) are facultative intracellular and identified four main intracellular phenotypes. The presence of S. aureus inside host cells can contribute to its ability to evade antibiotic treatment and immune responses, explaining, at least in part, treatment failure and recurrence of disease.

Despite the relevance of the intracellular lifestyle to S. aureus pathogenicity, a comprehensive identification of host and bacterial factors relevant to this process is yet to be performed. In the lab we are performing this analysis by applying functional genomics approaches, specifically: i) microscopy-based, high-throughput screenings of S. aureus mutant collections (for bacterial factors) and siRNA libraries (for host factors); ii) transcriptomics and proteomics to identify host and bacterial factors regulated during infection with S. aureus clinical isolates. Alongside, we are also analysing the efficacy of diverse classes of antibiotics according to the S. aureus intracellular lifestyle.

The PhD student will pursue a project along the above-described lines of research. The PhD student will receive training in microbiology and cell biology approaches, including bacterial and mammalian cell culture, microscopy, transcriptomics, and high-throughput screening.

Supporting publication: Microscopy-based phenotypic profiling of infection by Staphylococcus aureus clinical isolates reveals intracellular lifestyle as a prevalent feature. Rodrigues Lopes I, Alcantara LM, Silva RJ, Josse J, Pedrero Vega E, Cabrerizo AM, Bonhomme M, Lopez D, Laurent F, Vandenesch F, Mano M, Eulalio A (2022) Nature Communications 13(1):7174.

Requirements and eligibility

The studentship provides 3 years of funding starting October 2023 (or soon thereafter). Applicants should have a BSc honours degree (at least 2.1 or equivalent) in Biology, Biochemistry, Genetics, or a related discipline. Applicants with a Masters degree (at Merit level or better) in addition to the BSc will be given preference. Intellectual ability, enthusiasm and self-motivation are essential.

Funding provides full support for tuition fees for the three-year duration of the studentship (home fees only), and an annual tax-free stipend of £19 668 per year (rising annually by an amount linked to inflation).

How to apply:

Please direct informal enquiries and requests for further information to Dr. Ana Eulalio ( Please email a single PDF file including a brief cover letter describing your relevant interests and research experience, your C.V. and names and contact information of three referees. Applications will be considered as they are received, so early applications are encouraged. The deadline for applications is 25 February 2023.