Experimental and mathematical modelling to evaluate and optimize the effectiveness of the predatory bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus as an alterna

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Sch of Biosciences


The bacterium Bdellovibrio is a predator that kills other bacteria including plant, animal and human pathogens and has been proposed as an alternative to antibiotics. In order to use Bdellovibrio, we need to know how much it can reduce the population of prey and whether it would prefer certain prey when offered a choice from many potential prey. Does the presence of many prey species lead to better or worse performance of the predator, and how much of a problem is the presence of non-prey species? We will investigate these questions by a combination of experimental studies and mathematical modelling. Both will start with simple systems of only one prey species and move to systems with several prey species. This will allow us to understand the effect of increasing biodiversity on predator performance. Moreover, we will compare spatially mixed systems with spatially structured systems such as biofilms as pathogens forming biofilms are particularly difficult to treat. Biofilms are densely packed clusters of bacterial cells immobilized in a self-produced slimy substance. This will reveal whether the predator can more easily sense the presence of biofilms compared to single bacteria swimming around. The higher local density of bacteria in biofilms may allow the predator to survive at lower total prey numbers as potential prey are grouped together in one target. The work will contribute to assess the potential of predators to replace or complement the use of antibiotics.

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M01116X/1 30/09/2015 31/03/2024
1644294 Studentship BB/M01116X/1 04/10/2015 29/09/2019 Joanna Summers
Description Publication of a paper on how the bacterium studied in this award could work synergistically with a bacteriophage (virus that attacks bacteria only) to eliminate a target bacterial species (E. coli). This paper was made in collaboration with the University of Nottingham who supplied the experimental data, which was modelled by the team supported by this award. For further details see the publication section
Additionally the principal investigator on the award (Kim Summers) has completed a doctoral thesis and has moved onto to further academic research at the University of Warwick.
Exploitation Route The paper describes the first use of the researched bacterium in combination with a bacteriophage to eliminate another bacterial species and opens an avenue for other researchers to explore for the control of antibiotic resistance bacteria.
The experimental chemostats developed in the course of the award can be used for other projects requiring high thought put experiments using chemostats on a limited budget.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

URL https://jb.asm.org/content/early/2020/01/02/JB.00629-19/article-info
Description AMRflows: antimicrobials and resistance from manufacturing flows to people: joined up experiments, mathematical modelling and risk analysis
Amount £765,076 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/T013222/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2020 
End 10/2024
Description Computational modelling of data collected by the Sockett lab at the University of Nottingham 
Organisation University of Nottingham
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Computational modelling of data, to assist in explaining observed phenomena and determine physical parameters of the experimental system.
Collaborator Contribution Laboratory experiments that obtained the data being modelled.
Impact Production of a manuscript publish in Journal of Bacteriology and listed in this submission under publications
Start Year 2016
Title Predator prey model for Bdellovibrio 
Description ODE model of Bdellovibrio and/or phage predation on bacteria 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2020 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Allows other scientists to simulate our model and build on it. 
URL https://github.com/kreft/predatorprey
Description Kenilworth Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact "Invisible Cities: The Miniature World of Microbes"
03 June 2018, WQBP Public Outreach event, Kenilworth Centre, organized in conjunction with Warwick Symposium on Microbial Communities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/med/qbp/public/pastevents
Description King's Bromley Country Show 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Had a stand at a local country show aimed at engaging with the general public and in particularly the farming community to inform them about bacteria and antibiotic resistance in general and my research in particular.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Talk to small holders group in Staffordshire 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Gave a 1 hr talk and discussion on bacteria and antibiotic resistance and my research in particular to a group of ~20 small holders (individuals with allotments and some of them a small number of farm animals).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020