Congratulations dr. Oerlemans!

March 25th 2019, Eline Oerlemans finalised her PhD about ‘Topical Lactobacillus applications for modulation of the vaginal and skin microbiota’ with a public defence.

In this thesis the aim was to gain insight in the microbiome of different nongastrointestinal conditions. The following research questions were addressed:

  • Which novel insights can microbiome analysis provide us about the pathogenesis?
  • Can we beneficially manipulate the microbiome or host response by application of probiotics?
  •  Can the microbiome (during pathology or manipulation) provide information about the key microbial properties that need to be used as future selection criteria for probiotic strains?

The PhD thesis can be found here.

Congratulations dr. Broeckx!

On the 21nd of March 2019, Géraldine Broeckx finalised her PhD entitled ‘ Optimizing the spray drying of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG as an important step towards the development of successfull pharmabiotics’ with a public defence.  This PhD was a unique collaboration between her promotors prof. Filip Kiekens for the formulation and prof. Sarah Lebeer for the microbiology.

The PhD thesis can be found here.

Comparing the healthy nose and nasopharynx microbiota reveals continuity as well as niche- specificity

How can bacteria in the respiratory tract maintain our health and prevent infections from occurring? To answer this question, a better characterization of the collection of bacteria that are present in this human body niche is necessary. A good starting point is the identification of all bacteria that are present under healthy conditions. Therefore, we set up a large-scale citizen-science study, where we collected samples from 100 enthusiastic healthy volunteers. These volunteers were willing to donate a swab sample of their nose and nasopharynx. The bacterial DNA from all these samples was collected.

After processing of all these samples, we got a better idea about the bacteria that are present in the nose of healthy people. Our results, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, show that overall, the healthy nose and nasopharynx are mostly dominated by only a few bacterial species. Furthermore, these bacterial profiles in the nasopharynx could be grouped into at least four bacterial types (you can compare this to blood types) dependent on the bacterium that is most present: a type dominated by Moraxella, by Streptococcus or by Fusobacterium, and finally a mixed type of Staphylococcus, Dolosigranulum and Corynebacterium. Almost all individuals could be grouped into one of these four bacterial types. Interestingly, in the nose, only the Moraxella and the mixed type were found.

Applying for a PhD at the University of Antwerp?

We always welcome applications by students who want to obtain their own funding for a PhD study in line with the existing topics, alone or in cooperation with other universities or companies. In the Lab for Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology (LAMB) of prof. Sarah Lebeer, possible PhD research topics include (but are not limited to) probiotics for skin, urogenital and nasal applications, fermented vegetables, genetic characterization lactobacilli, characterization of molecular structures of lactobacilli such as pili, nasal microbiome in relation to air pollution, novel non-vertebrate animal models for probiotic research, … If you are interested in joining us, please contact Sarah Lebeer ( with a statement of interest about your research, and the scholarship programme to which you aim to apply.
Note that the University of Antwerp only offers PhD scholarships for specific research projects; these will be advertised in the job opportunities section of the faculty of Sciences

The main funding agencies for PhD scholarships in Flanders are:

For general information on the PhD programme, see the website of the Antwerp Doctoral School.