Dr Clara Benavent Celma

Research Scientist (Microbiology)
Environmental and Biochemical Sciences Projects Contracts and Research Support
Dr Clara Benavent Celma is a Research Scientist in the Environmental and Biochemical Sciences Department. She was awarded her PhD in Environmental Microbiology in the University of Aberdeen where she investigated the risk posed by the widespread infestations of oomycetes through the plants for planting pathway, emphasizing the potential for commercial potting mixes used in ornamental production to vector soil-borne pathogens. Furthermore, she investigated the biocontrol potential of one oomycete (Pythium oligandrum), and three bacterial strains (Bacillus subtilis MBI 600, Aneurinibacillus migulanus Nagano, Pseudomonas fluorescens B5) to control soil-borne Phytophthora and Pythium pathogen species. After her PhD she started her first postdoctoral position at The Rowett Institute on the BBSRC funded project,  ‘Challenge Based Molecular Tracking’, where she tracked molecules of interest from the soil to the gut and relate them with human health, in order to identify disruptive technologies. She started at The James Hutton Institute on March 2023 working on a RESAS funded project “Emerging water Futures”, focusing on developing a molecular novel method to detect somatic coliphages in drinking water. She is also involved in RESAS JHI-B6-1 “Flows of Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) from Environment to Food Chain” generating data on antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) in waters and sediments. Furthermore, she is in charge of developing new high throughput q-PCR methods and protocols for a range of environmental and agricultural science research projects using the unique Takara Smart Chip, recently acquired. Since her start at The James Hutton Institute she has been awarded with ECR grants as the SULSA – Rheinland-Pfalz Collaboration Grant in collaboration with the RPTU Kaiserlautern-Landau university to study the impact of anthropogenic pollutants on biofilm community and functioning, and The James Hutton Seedcorn Grant 24.05 to study the Contribution of phages to soil organic matter cycling and antibiotic resistance genes.

At present I am working on RESAS funded projects on human-animal-pathogens, and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR):
“Emerging water Futures”, developing a novel molecular method to detect somatic coliphages in drinking water; and “Flows of AMR from Environment to Food Chain” generating data on antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) in waters
and sediments. In addition, I am studying the impact of antibiotics on biofilm community, function and composition with a RheinlandPfalz-Collaboration Funding, from which I am applying for further funding to study AMR in biofilm and the potential use of phages as a biotherapy. Finally, I have recently been awarded The James Hutton Seedcorn Grant 24.05 to study the contribution of phages to soil organic matter cycling and ARGs transfer.

My research vision consists of a versatile, cross and transdisciplinary study of human-animal-plant-pathogens in the environment and the ARGs transfer, combined with the study of the function and role of phages in diverse environmental matrices, and their potential use in biotherapy, with a One-Health approach. I visualize the human-animal-plant-pathogens in the environment and the ARG as a big picture for which many disciplines need to be applied and coordinate. I propose a multidisciplinary research line in which soil-plant, water
catchments and biofilm are initially studied as independent systems, with a common area of study, the ARGs spread through horizontal gene transfer (HGT), and the function of phages in these systems, and their potential application for
bacterial treatment. These systems are interlinked and the independent study of them with common research areas, patterns and disciplines can lead to answer fundamental research questions of disease epidemiology and microbiological ecology, which ultimately can also be applied to water management resources, soil & plant sciences, improving food security and benefiting the wider community.

Past research

Clara Benavent-Celma, Debbie McLaggan, Pieter van West, and Steve Woodward. 2023. Survival of Phytophthora cryptogea and Phytophthora cactorum in Commercial Potting Substrates for Eucalyptus globulus Plants. Agriculture
2023, 13, 581. https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture13030581. T

Clara Benavent-Celma, Debbie McLaggan, Pieter van West, and Steve Woodward. 2023. Evidence of a Natural Hybrid Oomycete Isolated from Ornamental Nursery Stock. Journal of Fungi 9, no. 6: 627. https://doi.org/10.3390/jof9060627.

Clara Benavent-Celma, Noelia López-García, Tahmina Ruba, Magdalena E. Ściślak, David Street-Jones, Pieter van West, Stephen Woodward, Johanna Witzell. Current practices and emerging possibilities for reducing the
spread of oomycete pathogens in terrestrial and aquatic production systems in the European Union. Fungal Biology Reviews, Volume 40, 2022, Pages 19-36, ISSN 1749-4613, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2021.10.001.

Maryam Hashemi, Dania Tabet, Murilo Sandroni, Clara Benavent-Celma, Jenifer Seematti, Christian B. Andersen, Laura J. Grenville-Briggs. The hunt for sustainable biocontrol of oomycete plant pathogens, a case study of
Phytophthora infestans, Fungal Biology Reviews,V olume 40, 2022, Pages 53-69, ISSN 1749-4613, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2021.11.003.

Clara Benavent-Celma, Alexandra Puertolas, Debbie McLaggan, Pieter van West, and Steve Woodward. 2021. Pathogenicity and Host Range of Pythium kashmirense—A Soil-Borne Oomycete Recently Discovered in the UK. Journal
of Fungi, no. 6: 479. https://doi.org/10.3390/jof7060479.

Sonia Castellucci, CIRDER, Silvia Cocchi, Clara Benavent- Celma. Energy Characterization of Residual Biomass in Mediterranean Area for Small Biomass Gasifiers in According to the European Standards. Applied Mathematical Sciences
Vol. 8, 2014, no. 132, 6621 – 6633. https://m-hikari.com/ams/ams-2014/ams-129-132-2014/castellucciAMS129-132- 2014.pdf.