In-depth cultivation and characterization of the pig tonsil microbiome: towards targeted approaches for microbiome manipulation


The palatine tonsils function as a secondary lymphoid organ and play an important role in the induction of mucosal antibody responses at mucosal surfaces. The tonsils are colonised by an extensive microbiota, mainly bacteria which interact with each other and the host. Microbial metabolites greatly influence host health and physiology. Pigs are relevant animals in both biomedical research and agriculture, but knowledge about porcine tonsillar microbiota is limited. Perturbation of the tonsil microbiota is associated with infection with pathogens such as Streptococcus suis, which can asymptomatically colonise tonsils of piglets. However, some S. suis strains cause invasive disease in pigs and humans leading to sepsis and meningitis.


The project objective is to discover interesting microbes in the cultured fraction of porcine tonsil microbiomes, opening up avenues for functional studies and targeted approaches to reduce infections in the oral cavity through microbiome manipulation. We have establishid a large collection of representative species and strains across different phyla and have carried out mining of genomes from diverse tonsillar strains to prospect the presence of biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) that may play roles in microbe-microbe as well as host-microbe interactions.

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A culturomics approach is being used to identify commensals which inhibit growth of S. suis. This project mainly focusses on  in vitro approaches in the discovery of new antimicrobial peptides and in silico genomic and microbiota analyses. We are situated at the laboratory from the Host-Microbe Interactomics group, Animal Science.


We are looking for BSc/MSc students in the field of Biology, Microbiology, Bioinformatics, or related fields. We expect that the student has interest in learning more about microbiology techniques and molecular methods as DNA/RNA isolation and PCR and is interested in bioinformatics work.

Contact information:

Isabela M. Fernandes de Oliveira (email: tel: 0317-489356), PhD candidate Host-Microbe Interactomics, Wageningen University and Research. Visiting address: Room E1205, De Elst 1, 6708 WD, Wageningen.

Project leader: Prof. Jerry Wells