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Institute of Bacterial Infections and Zoonoses (IBIZ)

Laboratory of Bacterial Biological Agents and Multidrug-Resistant Bacteria

The intentional use of biological agents or toxins can harm farm animals and may lead to severe disruption of economic and societal infrastructure. Bacterial biological agents may be used for agroterrorism or in biological warfare. Bacterial bio-agents are considered as easy to use e.g. in aerosols, cost-effective, and available. Bacterial agents of concern are bacterial pathogens causing Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis), Brucellosis (B. abortus, B. melitensis, B. suis), Plague (Yersinia pestis), Tularemia (Francisella tularensis), Q fever (Coxiella burnetiid), Glanders (Burkholderia mallei) and Listeriosis (Listeria monocytogenes), or intoxication like Staphylococcus Enterotoxin B (SEB) or Clostridium botulinum toxin (Botox) etc. These agents also cause severe diseases in humans. Various agents have been used against animal resources or have been ammunitioned in the past. Bacillus anthracis, a Gram-positive spore-forming bacterium has been classified as category “A” biological agent and used in bio-terroristic attacks already.

Multidrug resistance (MDR) in disease causing bacteria is on the rise and threatens public health globally. Several classes of antibiotics lost their ability to effectively control MDR bacteria in patients. The leading cause of life-threatening nosocomial infections globally are the ESKAPE pathogens, which encompass six highly virulent and MDR bacterial pathogens i.e. Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter spp. Some of these pathogens have been extensively investigated in human medicine, however, their reservoirs are increasing and they are still neglected in veterinary medicine and environmental health. Knowledge on the risk of human infection via animal contact, food consumption, and environmental contamination is incomplete. Therefore, research on their biology, host-pathogen interaction, virulence mechanisms, host specificity, and resistance development is focused on.

Tasks of the Laboratory

  • Develop recommendations and advice on protection against bacterial biological agents and AMR.
  • Participate in action plans to enhance preparedness against biological security risks.
  • Conduct prevalence and resistance studies in bacteria.
  • Develop techniques for phenotypic and molecular characterization of bacteria.
  • Promote awareness and strengthen competence regarding antimicrobial resistance.

Main research topics and projects

  • One-Health genomic surveillance based on Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology to understand host and pathogen factors that contribute to virulence mechanisms and infection in bacterial biological agents and multiresistant bacteria.
  • Characterize the resistance determinants and trace back the sources of resistance genes in isolates collected from various sources to understand the mechanisms of resistance development in bacterial biological agents and multiresistant bacteria.

Overview of methods

  • Bacteriology up to biosafety level 3.
  • Serology and molecular techniques.
  • Antibiotic resistance testing using traditional and emerging methods.
  • In-vivo and in-vitro models
  • Pan-proteomic analysis