The gut microbiome as a predictor of COVID-19 disease severity

Eligibility: UK/EU/International graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Bursary, tuition fees plus generous consumables allowance

Duration: Full-Time (42 months)

Application deadline: 30 October 2020

Interview dates: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: January 2021

To find out more about the project, please contact Professor Derek Renshaw.

Project details

Obesity, diabetes, male gender and ethnicity have all been identified as risk factors for COVID-19 disease severity. Over recent years, data has emerged to support an important role of the gut microbial flora (microbiome) in the promotion of health and disease. Whilst fecal flora may represent merely a biomarker of metabolic health without playing any causative role, it is also increasingly likely, that the microbiome influence metabolic health through causal pathways. There is also a wealth of data linking obesity with increased disease severity, including pneumonia for other viral infections such as Influenza. There is also new data relating to increased prevalence of severe COVID-19 symptoms in patients with diabetes and obesity who would be suitable for bariatric surgery.

This project will investigate the relationship between the gut microbiome, metabolic health and systemic inflammation/ immune system function in patients under-going elective bariatric surgery. The results of this study will allow us a better understanding of the relationships between diet, the gut microbiota, metabolism and immune system function/inflammatory responses. We will track temporal changes in diet, the microbiome, metabolism and immune function in both male Caucasian and Bangladeshi patients from pre-surgery to 12 months post-surgery.


This is a fully-funded PhD studentship, including:

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend/bursary
  • Additional allowances


Training and Development

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.
All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry requirements

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.


  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years.
  • A minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).

Additional requirements

  • High-calibre student, BSc/MSc 1st or 2:1 in biological/biomedical sciences or other relevant bioscience degree involving an immunology component.
  • Experience of biological laboratory skills would be an advantage.
  • A good knowledge of statistical techniques to analyse relevant data sets.

How to apply

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus an up to 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project. To find out more about the project please contact contact Professor Derek Renshaw

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