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Ciência sem fronteiras (science without borders)

Ciência sem Fronteiras (Science Without Borders)

PI name & contact details:

Dr. Kevin Kavanag
Department of Biology, National University of Ireland
Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland.
Has project been agreed with head (or
nominee) of proposed registration school?
Research Centre / group affiliation: Medical Mycology
Research group / centre website:

PI website / link to CV:
Brief summary of PI research / research group / centre activity

1. Understanding the interaction of fungal pathogens with host tissue and how fungi can alter 2. Proteomic and molecular characterisation of response of fungi to oxidative and anti-fungal 3. Development of novel strategies for control of fungal infection.
Title & brief description of PhD project

Characterisation of the interaction of Fungal-Bacterial Complex (F-BC) with the pulmonary
immune response.
The filamentous fungus Aspergillus fumigatus is an important secondary co-pathogen of patients
affected by cystic fibrosis (CF) or asthma, and may kill up to 3% of all patients who die in hospitals.
The fungus can grow in the mucous secretions in the CF lung and secrete toxins and allergens that
provoke an allergic response. In the lung A. fumigatus interacts with other pathogens such as the
bacteria Pseudomonas, Burkhoderia and Pandoraea and this fungal-bacterial complex (F-BC)
facilitates the growth of both sets of pathogens in the lung and the deterioration of pulmonary
function. This project will: (1) Characterise the virulence of A. fumigatus, Pseudomonas,
and Pandoraea, alone and in combination, and establish how each can alter the
virulence of the other pathogen(s), (2) Examine the interaction of the F-BC with the innate immune
response and determine how fungi and bacteria work synergistically to suppress the pulmonary
immune response, (3) Examine how the F-BC interacts with A549 cells which are an excellent model
for the epithelial lining of the lung (4) Characterise the proteomic and molecular changes that occur
in host cells when exposed to the F-BC, (5) Examine how antifungal agents (e.g. amphotericin B,
caspofungin, itraconazole) used to control A. fumigatus in the lung affect the virulence of bacterial
Deliverable: This project has the potential to increase our understanding of how fungi and bacteria
interact together in the lung to increase their ability to colonise and degrade tissue. It will allow us to
uncover novel ways to minimize this interaction and to develop new therapeutic strategies for the
treatment of microbial infections in CF and asthmatic patients.

Unique selling points of PhD project in NUIM:
The Medical Mycology Unit at NUI Maynooth has an international reputation for the excellene of its
research into the interaction of fungal pathogens with host tissue. The Department of Biology has all
of the equipment and facilities necessary for the successful completion of this project. The student
will receive training in a wide range of biochemical, cellular, proteomic (LC/MS) and molecular (PCR,
qPCR) techniques essential for the development and progress of this project. In addition the
postgraduate student wil join an active research group which is committed to characterising the
interaction of microbes with human tissue.

Name & contact details for project queries, if different from PI named above:
Dr Kevin Kavanagh (
Please indicate the graduates of which disciplines that should apply:
BSc/MSc in any of the fol owing: Microbiology, Immunology, Cel Biology or Biology.

Ciência sem Fronteiras / Science Without Borders Priority Area:

Engineering and other technological areas
Pure and Natural Sciences (e.g. mathematics, physics, chemistry) Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) Technology of prevention and remediation of natural disasters New technologies in constructive engineering


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