I obtained my BSc Biology from Universidad de Los Andes in Colombia in 2017. After graduating and working for a year in Colombia as a scientific editor in an agency that generates safety and efficacy documents on biopharmaceutical products I moved to the UK to study a MSc in Biotechnology at the University of York. In 2020, despite having a wonderful time in York, I had to go back to Colombia after I completed my master’s due to the pandemic. I had a really nice time working on my master’s research project on phage therapy against Pseudomonas aeruginosa under Ville Friman’s supervision. After my time in York, I was fascinated with phage-bacteria interactions and keen to learn more about this matter, which motivated me to pursue a PhD. In October 2022 I was delighted to start my PhD project in Harper and Friman Groups at the University of York, focusing on the biocontrol of a plant pathogenic bacterium using bacteriophages.
Plant pathogenic bacteria cause considerable losses to food production. My project will develop a novel biocontrol approach to reduce the virulence of plant pathogenic Ralstonia solanacearum bacterium (causative agent of bacterial wilt) using phages – viral parasites of the pathogen. It builds upon previous work, where the phage efficacy was found to be based not only on pathogen density reduction but also on evolutionary trade-offs that made phage-resistant mutants less pathogenic.
The key aim of this project is to mechanistically understand how phage resistance turns pathogens less virulent. To achieve this, I will use experimental evolution to create a library of phage-resistant mutants and use sequencing to determine genes linked with phage resistance. The effects of phage resistance mutations on pathogen fitness will be tested experimentally in plant rhizosphere microcosms focusing on pathogen metabolic versatility and competitiveness, ability to compete for space to colonise roots, and ability to evade pattern-triggered or effector-triggered plant immunity within the plant.