PhD student virulence and control of group A streptococcal infections

PhD student virulence and control of group A streptococcal infections

Published Deadline Location
12 Mar 4 Apr Amsterdam

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Curious why certain bacteria cause life-threatening infections and how we can prevent and treat these? This project will focus on Group A Streptococcus to understand its molecular virulence mechanisms and complementary to study host protective response...

Job description

Many countries, including the Netherlands, have observed a resurgence of invasive group A streptococcal (iGAS) infections after lifting all COVID-19 control measures. In addition to shifts in affected age groups and clinical presentations, the emergence and dominance of specific emm types has been concerning.

The main objective of the BEATGAS project is to identify bacterial and host determinants that explain the current outbreak for the Netherlands through a combination of genomic, experimental wet-lab and epidemiological research. The PhD student will investigate and compare the genomes and virulence characteristics of GAS isolates before and after the COVID period to gauge changes in its’ disease-causing potential and perform population level seroprevalence studies for specific GAS antigens using available samples before, during, and after the COVID period. Due to lack of vaccines, effective public health measures are essential to control the ongoing re-emergence and surge of iGAS in and beyond the Netherlands. With this project, we aim to generate scientific evidence to identify specific risk factors and optimize iGAS disease at the public health level in the post-COVID-19 period.

This PhD project is embedded within the BEATGAS project, which is a collaborative study involving epidemiologists at the RIVM, medical microbiologists in different Dutch hospitals and a bioinformatician (post-doc).

The project has been awarded by the Dutch Research Council (ZonMW) and will run for 4 years. The PhD student will work in the group of Prof. Nina van Sorge at the Department of Medical Microbiology and Infection Prevention, location AMC at the Amsterdam UMC, The Netherlands. At an international level, the project complements the work performed within the iSpy network (Global research network to combat deadly Strep A infections | Imperial News | Imperial College London), which was recently awarded $10 million US to understand immunity to Group A streptococcus to help pave the way for vaccine development. This excellent international network will provide many interesting opportunities for collaborations within the BEATGAS project.

Your main goal is to unravel the molecular determinants of recently-emerged virulent GAS isolates by analysing genomic sequences in combination with wet-lab experiments. Wet-lab experimentation involves genetic manipulation of GAS isolates to verify loss-of function phenotypes, gene expression profiling, bacterial survival assays and possibly in vivo experiments in mouse models.

Complementary, you will perform antibody profiling studies for GAS-specific antigen in serum samples obtained before, during and after COVID-19 using multiplex flow cytometry or Luminex assays. This part of the projects aims to provide insight into the contribution of 'immunity debt' to iGAS re-emergence. The project therefore involves a wide range of in silico and in vitro techniques and is performed in close collaboration with clinical experts, epidemiologists and international GAS researchers.

Given the highly dynamic situation of iGAS epidemiology and the close collaboration with the Netherlands Reference Laboratory for Bacterial Meningitis (NRLBM), which performs the national surveillance of iGAS, the project is likely to adopt additional projects based on emerging situations.

The results will be published in peer-reviewed international journal as well as at (inter-)national meetings. The PhD is concluded by writing a formal PhD thesis according to the University of Amsterdam requirements.


Amsterdam UMC


  • You hold a Master degree in Biomedical Sciences, Veterinary Sciences or other life-science relevant field;
  • You have experience with molecular (micro-)biology techniques and/or flow cytometry;
  • Excellent verbal and written communication in English;
  • Affinity with bioinformatics analysis is preferred but not required;
  • You are intrisically motivated, scientifically curious and a team player.

Conditions of employment

  • A great start of your research carreer in an internationally renowned research lab.
  • Opportunity to perform creative and state-of-the art research in the field of infectious diseases
  • Work in a mid-sized team on collaborative and independent projects with highly motivated colleagues and national and international collaborators and clinicians.
  • As a student in the AMC Graduate School you will also have access to additional training and development
  • We offer a contract for 6 months, with the intention to be extended.
  • Salary scale OIO: € 2,901 tot € 3,677 bruto with a full time appointment (depending on education and experience).
  • In addition to a good basic salary, we offer 8.3% end-of-year bonus and 8% holiday allowance. Bereken hier jouw netto salaris.
  • Pension is accrued at Be Frank.
  • In addition to excellent accessibility by public transport, AMR also has a sufficient number of parking spaces for employees.
  • An active personnel association and the Young Amsterdam UMC association, both of which organise fun (sports) activities and events.


Amsterdam UMC

Amsterdam UMC, location AMC, houses the university hospital and the medical faculty of the University of Amsterdam, as well as several research institutes. Infectious Diseases represents one of the major areas of clinical, applied and basic research, integrated at Amsterdam infection and Immunity Institute (AI&II).

The PhD position is embedded in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Infection Prevention that is responsible for clinical diagnostics and infectious disease consultations, (bio)medical education and training, and research, thereby providing a broad insight into the full range of disciplines in medical microbiology, including bacteriology, virology and parasitology.

You will be joining the research group of Dr. N. van Sorge within the Laboratory for Experimental Bacteriology. Currently, the group consists of 4 post-docs and 3 PhD students, an associate professor with expertise in bacterial gene regulation and 2 technicians that are supportive of the day-do-day work and logistics. Our research group has close collaborations with investigators and clinicians within Amsterdam UMC but also at the national and international level, which greatly complements our expertise and technological abilities to advance the research in host-pathogen interaction. The position of Prof. van Sorge as head of the Netherlands Reference Laboratory for Bacterial Meningitis, which performs the national epidemiological surveillance of iGAS since 2019, provides unique opportunites to connect experimental research with real-time changes in iGAS epidemiology.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 36 hours per week
  • €2901—€3677 per month
  • University graduate
  • 11049



Meibergdreef 9, 1105AZ, Amsterdam

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