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Foodborne pathogens and food spoilage microoganisms

A central research focus lies on investigations to identify sources, points of entry and contamination pathways of zoonotic and foodborne pathogens as well as spoilage bacteria in the food production process. On the one hand, this is accomplished by status quo surveys on the microbiological contamination of various foodstuffs, on the other by microbiological examination of the food chain from primary production to the end product. In this context, scientific analyses of hygiene parameters during processing in food-producing companies are also performed. In addition, heat resistance studies are carried out on liquid foods (e.g. milk, cream, fruit juices) using continuous flow in a BSL3 pilot plant pasteurizer. This pasteurization equipment is designed as a closed system in view of its use with BSL3 pathogens as test organisms while it is analogous to commercial heating plants, thus representing a unique experimental facility in Germany. In further work, the growth behavior, tenacity and control of pathogenic bacteria in/on foods as well as corresponding biofilms on surfaces in the production environment are examined. Studies on biocontrol of pathogens and food hygiene-relevant bacteria by use of phages is carried out in close cooperation with the Bacteriophage Unit. These results can then be used to derive measures to minimize risks and increase food quality.

Another research focus is in the field of antibiotic resistance, especially of bacterial infectious agents but also regarding opportunistic pathogens, such as Acinetobacter, Klebsiella and coagulase-negative Staphylococci. In zoonosis and antibiotic resistance research, special attention is paid to the complex interrelationships of animal, human, food and environmental health in the sense of the "One Health" approach in order to develop effective and sustainable measures in food production. For this purpose, work is carried out on the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food. In the work area of molecular biological analysis, isolates are characterized with regard to the antibiotic resistance profile at the genome level and the development and transmission and of bacterial antibiotic resistance is investigated.