This research centers on the characterization of the microbial diversity associated with foods during production and storage. The way in which environmental factors during production and processing impact the microbial population dynamics is of special interest. The research aims to assess which microorganisms are of importance in the context of quality losses (spoilage) or improvement (fermentation, ripening). The question whether food-related bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria, are able to reach the human gastrointestinal tract and can establish themselves as part of the resident gut microbiota, is also addressed.
Further research focuses on what influences specific foods or food components have on the composition and functionality of the human gut microbiota. This research is performed either in vitro using fecal cultures or a gastrointestinal model, or in vivo in animal studies or in human volunteer studies. The latter are done in close collaboration at the Department of Physiology and Biochemistry of Nutrition, as well as other MRI departments. The effect of the gut phage virome on the bacterial microbiome of the human gastrointestinal tract is also a current research area and is done in cooperation with the bacteriophage group at the department.
Lastly, the Department of Microbiology and Biotechnology also investigates and evaluates probiotic bacteria and their probiotic mechanisms in vitro in cell culture as well as in animal studies.