Science 4 Refugees

Molecular elucidation of the evolutionary success of Salmonella Kentucky ST198

    KU Leuven
    Biological sciencesOther
    Medical sciencesOther
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    15/09/2019 23:59 - Europe/Brussels

Salmonella enterica serovar Kentucky (S. Kentucky) is a common cause of gastro-enteritis. Although resistance to critically-important antibiotics for human medicine is rare among Salmonella species, the clonal variant S. Kentucky ST198 poses an exemption. Phylogeographic analysis indicates this clone first emerged in Egypt around 1989, before disseminating into Northern, Southern and Western Africa, and then further to the Middle East, Asia and Europe. It is extremely resistant to commonly used antibiotics, and poses a real threat to human health. Although it is meticulously monitored, the underlying mechanisms explaining its evolutionary success so far remain cryptic. In this project, you will perform a detailed investigation of the genetic background and specific features of this clone, in a broader context of elucidating why certain pathogens are more prone to incorporate antimicrobial resistance traits. 
This project is financed by a branch of Horizon 2020 which specifically focuses on ‘One Health’ research. It is a collaboration between Sciensano and two expert groups in Salmonella genetics and cell biology, the Laboratory of Food Microbiology at KU Leuven (BE) and the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA, FR). 
You will be associated with the National Reference Laboratory of Salmonella (Sciensano) and the Lab of Food Microbiology (KU Leuven), with regular research visits to INRA (Tours, FR). The project starts close to the clinical reality of drug resistance, and implements state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technology (Illumina/NanoPore) to map the genetic background of this successful clone. Then, you will study interactions between various genetic elements using advanced molecular techniques and live cell biology to unravel the genetic factors contributing to the success of S. Kentucky ST198. 
You are supervised by experienced scientists in genetics, cell biology and microbiology. You will present the results of your study at national and international meetings and conferences, where you will interact with (inter)national experts, and condense these results in peer-reviewed publications and a PhD dissertation. 


  • A PhD scholarship from the One Health European Joint Programme for 36 months.
  • Working in a young and dynamic working environment, spread over three research groups: Sciensano (Ukkel, Engelandstraat 642; BE), Laboratory of Food Microbiology (KU Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 23, BE), and Infectiologie et Santé Publique (Centre INRA Val de Loire, FR).
  • Both Sciensano and the Arenberg Doctoral School of KU Leuven offer plenty of possibilities for personal development and training.

Eligibility criteria

  • Master in bio-engineering, biology, biomedical science, or equivalent, with excellent study results.
  • Motivated to perform scientific research in an international environment.
  • Thorough spoken and written command of English.
  • Technical competencies required: theoretical and practical knowledge of molecular biology and bacteriology; interest in genetics, cell biology and antimicrobial resistance.
  • Generic competencies: well-organized; problem-solving; responsible; trustworthy & ethical; independent and team player; eager to learn.

Selection process

In addition to your CV and letter of application, please also add an overview of your study results and the names of three references who may be contacted.
For more information please contact Dr. Pieter-Jan Ceyssens (pieter-jan.ceyssens@sciensano.be) or Prof. Abram Aertsen (abram.aertsen@kuleuven.be).

You can apply for this job no later than 15/09/2019 via the online application tool

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Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven

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EURAXESS offer ID: 437353


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