Study level

  • PhD


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Johanna Kenyon
Senior Lecturer
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Health

External supervisors

  • Prof Ruth Hall, University of Sydney


Bacteriophage therapy is an attractive innovative treatment for infections caused by extensively drug resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, for which there are few effective antibiotic treatments remaining.

Capsular polysaccharide (CPS) is a primary receptor for lytic bacteriophage, thus knowledge of the chemical structures of CPS produced by the species underpins the identification of suitable phage for therapeutic cocktails.

As many phage depolymerases cleave a specific CPS linkage formed by either a glycosyltransferase or polymerase enzyme, characterisation of these proteins are essential.

However, these remain largely uncharacterised in bacterial systems due to inherent difficulties in working with CPS proteins in the laboratory. Polymerase genes are also known to be mobile and exchanged between bacterial isolates complicating the assessment of their function.

Fortunately, our team is leading the way in this field using a novel ‘genomics-structure’ approach that allows us to bridge structural and genetic data to identify patterns and relationships.

In this project, the role of enzymes in CPS synthesis will be confirmed and the extreme diversity in polymerase sequences will also be examined.


The aims of the project are focused on understanding the diversity, synthesis, and evolution of capsular polysaccharides (CPS) produced on the cell surface of the multi-drug resistant bacterial pathogen, Acinetobacter baumannii.

Research activities

The candidate will apply skills in:

  • microbiology (including the handling of multi-drug resistant bacterial pathogens)
  • molecular biology
  • bioinformatics (including genomics techniques).


The project is expected to provide novel insights into the impact of CPS diversity and gene mobility on next generation therapies.

Skills and experience

To be eligible to apply, you must:

  • meet the QUT academic and English language entry requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy:
  • be an Australian citizen, permanent resident,  or an international student who is currently in Australia at the time of application and commencement
  • have a first-class honours (H1) or masters (by research [MPhil]) or an equivalent degree in microbiology, or a related discipline
  • prior experience in basic microbiological techniques would be desirable
  • have a keen interest in infectious diseases caused by multi-drug resistant pathogens.


You may be eligible to apply for a research scholarship.

Explore our research scholarships



Contact the supervisor for more information.