Unit Epidemiology, Zoonoses and Antimicrobial Resistance

Unit 43 focuses on the epidemiology of zoonotic agents and resistant bacteria in the food chain. The Unit houses the National Reference Laboratory for Antimicrobial Resistance and therefore combines epidemiological know-how with expertise in the fields of microbiology and molecular biology. Its activities reflect the central role of the unit in reporting on zoonoses and the assessment of risks due to resistant bacteria in the food chain as well as exposure to zoonotic agents.

The primary official duties of the unit involve participation in implementing the Zoonoses Monitoring Directive 2003/99/EC including zoonoses- and resistance-monitoring as well as analysis of the results of control measures within the framework of the Regulation (EC) 2160/2003 on control of zoonoses. The National Reference Laboratory for Antimicrobial Resistance characterises zoonotic agents and other bacteria in the food chain with regard to their resistance properties and their basic molecular structure. It cooperates closely with the laboratories in the federal states (the "Laender") and the European Reference Laboratory for Antimicrobial Resistance (https://www.eurl-ar.eu/).

In addition to performing these tasks, Unit 43 plays a central role in the development of open source software programs  and applications. These tools (e.g. FoodChain-Lab) are designed, for example, to support the tracing of contaminations along suspected pathways to their sources and the analysis of product chains in the event of foodborne disease outbreaks.

The scientific work of the unit focuses on the following topics:

  • Development and application of epidemiological methods and tools
    • for prevalence and exposure estimation
    • for the quantification of determinants and identification of the causal relationship between the contamination of foods and disease in humans
    • for the analysis of the determinants on the emergence and spread of resistant microorganisms in the food chain
  • Development and application of microbiological and molecular biology methods for the detection and characterisation of resistant microorganisms in the food chain
  • Development and implementation of solutions for the analysis of product chains and quantitative assessment of microbiological risks in food and product chains.


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