Postgraduate research

The pathogenic potential of environmental fungi

Qualification: PhD

Department: Respiratory Sciences

Application deadline: 8 May 2023

Start date: 25 September 2023



  • Dr Leah Cuthbertson
  • Dr Emma Marczylo (UK Health Security Agency)

Project description

Fungal infections are increasingly being recognised as a major health concern. They are estimated to affect around a billion people worldwide with over 1.5 million deaths per year, despite this there is still gaps in our understanding of fungal disease. In 2022 the WHO published their first fungal priority pathogen list where they outline the need for better understanding of mycological infections, diagnostics and treatments. The recent report of the death of 2 year old Awaab Ishak, as a direct result of prolonged fungal exposure within the home provides a timely reminder of the severe consequences of these infections.

Fungal respiratory diseases are an increasing clinical problem, particularly in those with compromised immune function or underlying respiratory disease. The environment provides a rich source of fungal contamination to the lungs. Individuals are estimated to inhale between 1,000 and 10 million fungal spores daily as a result of both indoor and outdoor air pollution. In recent years there has been an increase in the prevalence and diversity of disease-causing fungal species. Environmental pressures created by climate change may be playing a role in the raising prevalence of new fungal pathogens. These so call “emerging” fungal pathogens are often characterised by increased antifungal resistance and poor clinical outcomes.

This project aims to explore the pathogenic potential of environmental fungal isolates in the UK using a combination of culture and genomic methodologies. To do this, you will explore the sources and diversity of fungi in the home, workplace and outdoor spaces. Environmental isolates will then be interrogated to explore pathogenic potential and antimicrobial resistance in order to understand the environmental risk factors for fungal disease.

Our objectives are to:

  1. Identify potential sources of potentially pathogenic fungi from the environment using both molecular and culture-based methodologies.
  2. Establish pathogenic potential of fungal isolates from environmental sources compared to clinical isolates.
  3. Establish the extent of antifungal resistance from environmental fungal species.

This exciting project is hosted by the University of Leicester Centre of Environmental Health and Sustainability with support from the UK Health Security Agency. This offers the unique opportunity of directly feeding relevant results into government groups to inform policy and guidelines.

You will gain extensive knowledge of fungi and their disease risks and employ state-of-the-art techniques to study the pathogenic potential and risk factors associated with fungi in the home, work and outdoor environments.



This 3 year PhD Studentship provides

  • UK tuition fee waiver
  • Annual stipend at UKRI rates. TBC for 2023/24 (£17,668 for 2022/23)

*International candidates should note that they will be required to cover the difference between the UK (Home) and International tuition fees each year (this will be in the region of £17,000 per annum and will be confirmed at the point of offer).

*Please note that this project is competition funded.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor's Degree 2:1 (or overseas equivalent) or better in a relevant subject.

The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable.

Informal enquiries

Informal enquiries

Project enquiries

Application enquiries

How to apply

How to apply

To apply, please use the Apply button at the bottom of the page and select September 2023 from the dropdown menu.

With your application, please include: 

  • CV
  • Personal statement explaining your interest in the project, your experience and why we should consider you.
  • Degree certificates and transcripts of study already completed and if possible transcript to date of study currently being undertaken.
  • Evidence of English language proficiency if applicable.
  • In the reference section please enter the contact details of your two academic referees in the boxes provided or upload letters of reference if already available.
  • In the funding section please specify that you wish to be considered for the College of Life Sciences Studentship.
  • In the research proposal section please provide the name of the project supervisors and the project title (a proposal is not required).



Open to UK and *International candidates

*International candidates should note that they will be required to cover the difference between UK and International tuition fees each year (this will be in the region of £17,000 per annum and will be confirmed at the point of offer).

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