Knight Riley Clostridium difficile PhD Project

The Riley lab is interested in understanding the molecular epidemiology, pathogenicity, evolution and natural biology of the enteropathogen Clostridium difficile.


The Riley lab is interested in understanding the molecular epidemiology, pathogenicity, evolution and natural biology of the enteropathogen Clostridium difficile. This ancient opportunistic bacterium causes disease through the production of toxins that affect the gut. C. difficile infection (CDI) can result in life-threatening diarrhoea and is a major cause of mortality in both humans (10,000 cases and ~600 deaths annually) and livestock in Australia. Recent work from our laboratory has shown that C. difficile reservoirs outside the hospital including animals, food or the environment play an important role in CDI transmission, contributing to the increasing rates of community-acquired CDI.

To fully understand the role of the environment in CDI transmission in Australia, autochthonous reservoirs of C. difficile need to be investigated. This project aims to describe, for the first time, the natural biology of C. difficile in Australian marsupials and other native animals, providing critical insights into the prevalence, molecular epidemiology and evolution of C. difficile in this unique population and their possible role in CDI in humans and animals in Australia.

This project will require a combination of conventional bacteriology and molecular biology, and cutting-edge techniques in microbial genomics and bioinformatics.

The candidate will join a multi-disciplinary One Health research group situated within the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences in a bespoke world-class research laboratory at PathWest Laboratory Medicine (Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre, Nedlands, WA).

Further reading

  1. Riley TV. (2009). Is Clostridium difficile a threat to Australia’s biosecurity? Med J Aust, 190:661-2.
  2. Knight DR, Squire MM, Collins DA, Riley TV. (2017). Genome analysis of Clostridium difficile PCR ribotype 014 lineage in Australian pigs and humans reveals a diverse genetic repertoire and signatures of long-range interspecies transmission. Front Microbiol, 7:2138.
  3. Knight DR, Elliott B, Chang BJ, Perkins TT, Riley TV. (2015). Diversity and evolution in the genome of Clostridium difficile. Clin Microbiol Rev, 28:721-41.

Principal supervisor:
Professor Thomas V. Riley
Professor of Public Health
School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University

Co-supervisor:
Dr Daniel R. Knight
NHMRC Peter Doherty Early Career Fellow
School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University

Funding bodyMurdoch University
Duration3 years – January 2019-December 2021
RequirementsEssential
  • First or upper second-class Honours degree in the field of Microbiology. A Masters qualification in a similar area would be an advantage.
  • Knowledge and practical experience in bacteriology and molecular biology.
  • Excellent communication, time management and interpersonal skills.
Desirable
  • Demonstrable research experience and a background in infectious disease epidemiology, microbial genomics and/or veterinary microbiology
Apply by29th June 2018
To applyEmail your current curriculum vitae and a brief statement outlining:
  1. research and practical experience
  2. why you are interested in this project
  3. career aspirations
to Dr Daniel Knight
ContactPlease direct all questions about this project to Dr Daniel Knight