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Bismuth Based Antimicrobial Agents to Combat Antibiotic Resistance S&T50

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Project ID: S&T50

Antibiotic resistance is a growing global threat to human health. The proliferation of ‘superbugs’, bacteria which are resistant to almost all current antibiotics, is likely to lead to a significant rise in mortality due to untreatable infections in the near future.1 It has been recognised that bacteria are less likely to develop resistance to metal based antimicrobial agents, therefore the development of new metal containing antibiotics is an exciting possibility for overcoming this challenge.

Bismuth complexes are known for their low toxicity and antimicrobial properties, and several have been clinically approved for the treatment of gastrointestinal H. pylori infections. More recently, it was found that combining a bismuth complex with an antibiotic helps to overcome drug-resistance, making previously resistant strains of E. coli responsive to treatment.2

The main class of clinically approved bismuth drugs are bismuth citrates. Despite their widespread clinical use, their chemical structure and behaviour is not well understood. One challenge is their low solubility, often leading to formulation as a colloidal suspension limited to oral treatments.
This is an interdisciplinary project which aims to synthesise new water soluble complexes of Bi(III) and evaluate their antimicrobial properties. By using zwitterionic ligands, you will target molecular drugs with well defined bismuth coordination environments, and investigate their structure using crystallographic and spectroscopic techniques. You will undertake antimicrobial testing of the new complexes, both alone and in combination with other antibiotics. Promising drug candidates will be tested in an in-vitro infection model and screened for mammalian toxicity. You will also aim to synthesise fluorescent bismuth complexes and use them to trace bismuth uptake in cell models. It was recently found that bismuth complexes inhibit the replication of the SARS-COV-2 virus which causes COVID-19,3 and anti-viral applications of any new bismuth drug candidates could be an exciting future step for this project.

This project would suit a candidate with a degree in chemistry or chemical biology. Full training will be provided in all required techniques.

School strategic research priority

The project aligns with the NTU Centre for Health, Ageing and Understanding Disease (CHAUD), especially the CHAUD research theme Antimicrobial Resistance, Omics & Microbiota (AROM).

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

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