The Division Water Quality and Health focuses on the development and application of future-oriented methods for the analysis of health-related microbiological water quality. Currently the following research projects can be supported:
Current research projects
Water is one of the most valuable resources worldwide. The quality of water is of fundamental importance for human health in all areas of life. Intensive activities reflect this relevance also at the level of research and science. In the medical/clinical context, water also has an important significance, as water of special quality must be made available for specific treatments of patients.
Detection of fecal pollution in water with innovative methods of the future
"Revolutionizing Water Quality Testing"
Estimates show that at least 2 billion people use fecal-polluted drinking water resources. Water contaminated with faeces can contain high concentrations of pathogens and, if exposed, lead to infectious diseases and epidemics. According to the WHO, nearly 10% of global health impacts are still caused by contaminated water or lack of sanitation. The research group of Prof. Andreas Farnleitner is therefore working on new, innovative methods for the investigation of faecal microbiological pollution in water and water resources for faster - e.g. by field detection and/or online methods - and more comprehensive analysis. What are the sources of pollution? What are the associated health risks? The information obtained is essential for the implementation and control of water and sanitation security plans according to WHO guidelines. A special focus of the group is the molecular biological (DNA-targeted) detection of microbiological faecal indicators and genetic faecal markers of human, but also animal, pollution sources.
Occurrence and significance of human-associated antibiotic-resistant bacteria in water resources
"Highlighting Antimicrobial Resistance in Water Resources"
The increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) is a global threat to human and animal health (keyword: "One Health"). In addition to everyday clinical practice, where ARBs are already an acute problem in the treatment of patients, the increased incidence of human-associated ARBs in water resources is a growing cause for concern. Scientific facts on the health significance of the spread of ARBs via wastewater and surface water must be collected in the future in order to be able to derive a well-founded evaluation - and if necessary - appropriate management measures. The research group around Prof. Alexander Kirschner and Prof. Andreas Farnleitner, in cooperation with the Medical University of Graz (Doz. Gernot Zarfel, Doz. Clemens Kittinger), is dealing with the occurrence, the significance, but also the mechanisms of resistance spread and formation of human-associated ARBs in water resources.
Detection and dissemination of emerging pathogens in the course of global change
"Emerging Pathogens in Water"
Global changes, such as global warming, also lead to sustainable changes in water ecosystems, such as significant increases in surface water temperatures and the occurrence of water-associated pathogens. In particular, representatives of the genus Vibrio have been identified as "bioindicators of global warming" in water bodies. Several pathogens belong to the genus Vibrio, among them Vibrio cholerae, the pathogen of cholera, which causes major problems especially in subtropical and tropical latitudes or in crisis areas. In bathing waters of temperate latitudes, infections caused by Vibrio cholerae strains, which cannot cause cholera, are increasingly common. These are wound, ear and blood infections or massive skin infections (necrotizing fasciitis), which can lead to death in certain groups of people with previous illnesses or a weakened immune system. The research group of Prof. Alexander Kirschner has been working for years with national and international partners on new, innovative methods for the detection of Vibrio cholerae in bathing waters as well as on models that allow the prediction of the occurrence of the pathogen in these waters.
Would you like to learn more about "Water Quality and Health"? In an interview Univ.-Prof. PD. Dr. Andreas Farnleitner, MSc.Tox, Head of Division Water Quality and Health, Department Pharmacology, Physiology and Microbiology informs about the importance of a commitment to clean drinking water and the challenges this poses.
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