Unit Food Microbiology, Pathogen-Host Interactions
The work of this Unit focuses on bacteria of the species Campylobacter, Salmonella and Escherichia coli (including verotoxigenic E. coli) that may occur in animal and plant-based foods and that can frequently cause gastrointestinal illness in humans.
One of the important tasks of the Unit is its involvement in the national zoonoses monitoring programme to determine the presence of these pathogens in foods in line with Directive 2003/99/EC and in national surveillance and control programmes. In this context, the Unit performs extensive laboratory tests to detect and type these bacterial pathogens using classical microbiological, serological and molecular biology methods. The data obtained in this way form an important basis for the assessment of the risks posed by these pathogens along the food chain.
As these pathogens are often involved in the contamination of foods of animal origin, experimental studies are conducted in the frame of research projects to investigate the behaviour of these pathogens in animals and in the foods made from these animals.
The Unit houses the National Reference Laboratories for Campylobacter, Salmonella and Escherichia coli including verotoxigenic E. coli.
The work of these Reference Laboratories focuses on the following topics:
- Cooperation with the European Reference Laboratory for the specific pathogens
- Performance of diagnostics and fine-scale differentiation of microorganisms by means of phenotyping, serology and molecular biology
- Detection of toxins using immunological methods and of virulence and resistance markers using molecular biology methods
- Development of rapid detection methods and other DNA-based techniques in selected food matrices
- Optimisation and validation of methods
- Epidemiological investigations on the occurrence of pathogens
- Identification of chains of infection and performance of forensic investigations
- Participation in interlaboratory comparisons and performance of interlaboratory comparisons for the quality assurance of test results
- Strain collection and production of reference material
- Reporting and participation in national and international bodies
- Research in the context of national and international projects
- Provision of advice and preparation of scientific opinions