Patricia Espenhain Sørensen

Name: Patricia Espenhain Sørensen
Twitter: @PatSoerensen

Ghent University
Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Poultry Diseases
Salisburylaan 133
9820 Merelbeke, Belgium

Education and Experience

In September 2015, I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Biology-Biotechnology at University of Copenhagen, Denmark (UCPH). Throughout my studies, I grew a great interest for the field of microbiology and bacteriology. During my thesis I worked with development of molecular detection methods and selection criteria for probiotic strains of bacteria, which sparked my great interest for the possibilities within the area of antibiotic resistance and infectious diseases.

In April 2018, I obtained my Master’s degree in Biology-Biotechnology at UCPH. For my Master’s thesis project, I worked with Shiga toxin-producing bacteriophages in Escherichia coli. The thesis was carried out in collaboration between UCPH, Statens Serum Institut (SSI), Denmark and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), MD, USA.

During these studies I became acquainted with a broad range of different laboratory techniques and acquired a profound knowledge within the field of biotechnology and microbiology. Moreover, I gained a great international experience throughout secondment at USUHS and attendance at international conferences, including STEC 2018, Italy, where I presented my Master’s thesis results. 

ESR11: Phage therapy against antibiotic resistant E. coli

My project

Excess use of antimicrobials and release into the environment for over half a century have led to a worldwide increase in antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. Consequently, we now have to consider new or alternative treatments options, such as the use of bacteriophages (phages). Despite phages’ ubiquitous presence and great importance in various processes, little is known on the extent of diversity of specific phages in different ecosystems and on the phage-bacterium interaction.

The aim of this project is to investigate the diversity of E. coli-infecting phages (coliphages) and to understand the phage-bacterium interaction and based on the obtained knowledge construct phages that can potentially be used in phage therapy to combat avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC) infections. This will include the establishment of well-characterized collection of lytic coliphages, determination of factors involved in APEC phage resistance and phage/APEC growth dynamics, and the creation of phages with wanted host specificity and spectrum.