The working group molecular biological analytics deals with the identification and molecular characterization of microorganisms and phages in close collaboration with the other working groups. This research focuses on both bacteria, including food production-associated microorganisms, foodborne pathogens and spoilage bacteria, as well as their phages. A further focus also lies on the new potentially infectious agents consisting of circular and potentially single-stranded DNA, i.e. the SPHINX/BMMF (Slow Progressive Hidden Infections of Variable X/Bovine Milk and Meat Factors) molecules. Different identification methods are available for this research. These include classic fingerprinting techniques (e.g., RFLP, RAPD-PCR, PFGE, DGGE, MLSA and MLST), PCR techniques (qPCR and multilocus PCR) gene technological methods (cloning, transposon mutagenesis) and sequencing methods (genome, phageome, transcriptome and metagenome sequencing).
The thus obtained bacterial and phage genomic data allow a deep insight into their properties and characteristics and allow extensive comparative analyses. Thus, strains can be typed at the molecular biological level and virulence, resistance and pathogenicity factors are characterized. Furthermore, molecular typing by cgMLST (core genome MLST) or SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) analyses are utilized to determine clonal relationships and transmission of microorganisms in relation to their occurrence in foods. In current studies, genomes of phages, pathogens and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, spoilage pathogens as well as potential starter cultures are being sequenced and characterized.
Microbiome data analyses on the other hand aim to determine the influences of starter cultures or changes of intrinsic or external parameters or on the composition of the food microbiota, for example changes in the microbiome of reformulated foods. These studies furthermore aim to obtain insight into the influence of food-associated microbiota on the functionality and composition of the gut microbiota.