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Water Quality & Health


Basic research projects are continuously submitted or implemented as lead or cooperation partner in national and international competitive tenders. In addition, translational research projects are carried out with leading companies in water management and the public sector.

  • Whole-Danube-River AMR

    Fecal pollution routes of antibiotic resistance in rivers

    • Project Number: P32464-B
    • Project Lead: Alexander Kirschner, Medical University of Vienna / Institute for Hygiene and Applied Immunology
    • Project Partner: Medical University Graz, Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Division Water Quality and Health
    • Duration: 48 months starting from 11.06.2019
  • Investigating the status quo on fecal pollution for the section of the River Danube in Lower Austria

    Investigating the status quo on fecal pollution for the section of the River Danube in Lower Austria

    • Project Number: WA2-A-226/050-2019
    • Project Lead: Alexander Kirschner, Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Division Water Quality and Health
    • Project Partner: Medical University of Vienna / Institute for Hygiene and Applied Immunology, Technische Universität Wien
    • Duration: 18 months starting from 29.03.2019


    In recent months, various media and the population have repeatedly speculated that the Danube navigation would lead to a significant fecal burden on the Danube. However, there are no current and secured data series on the level of fecal pollution over a representative period. The research concept is based on the spatio-temporal high-resolution analysis of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) for the Lower Austrian section of the Danube, as well as a first assessment of the FIB emission potentials for the Danube navigation with a comparison to municipal sources. In addition, a basic chemo-physical characterization of the water quality and a genetic analysis to determine the sources of fecal pollution for selected locations will be made. Along the Lower Austrian Danube, 11 selected transects (cross sections) will be characterized during the course of the year. In addition, high-resolution time series at neuralgic Danube sites will be surveyed using automated sampling technology. In order to support an estimation of the emission potential of Danube navigation, also waster water sampled directly from the vessels will be examined. All common types of ships or sewage are considered. The study will be carried out in close cooperation between the State of Lower Austria (Gruppe Wasser) and the Karl Landsteiner Private University for Health Sciences, Department of Water Quality and Health, with the support of the ICC Water & Health as partner.


    An innovative strategy for the quantification and prediction of toxigenic and non-toxigenic Vibrio cholerae in environmental water resources

    • Project Number: LSC17_007
    • Project Lead: Alexander Kirschner, Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Division Water Quality and Health
    • Project Partner: Technische Universität Wien / IFA Tulln Working Group Molecular Diagnostics, Lower Austrian Government / Department of Environmental Hygiene, Medical University of Vienna / Institute for Hygiene and Applied Immunology
    • Duration: 36 months starting from 01.01.2019


    Vibrio cholerae is a natural inhabitant of aquatic ecosystems and the causative agent of the devastating disease cholera. Cholera is caused by toxigenic strains belonging to the serogroups O1 and O139. However nontoxigenic V.cholerae (NTVC) cause several other kinds of infections with potential fatal outcome. In the past 20 years, NTVC infections have been significantly increasing in Europe in association with global warming. In Lower Austria, two extreme cases occurred for the first time in 2015. Both cases were associated with bathing activities during an extreme summer heatwave. To date, the decisive factors controlling NTVC occurrence in inland bathing waters are not clear.
    Such information and the availability of reliable NTVC quantification methods are prerequisite to enable prediction models and early warning systems of NTVC occurrence. Besides cultivation on microbiological media, molecular and cell-based methods have been developed. So far, cell-based detection combining fluorescence labelling (FISH) and solid phase cytometry (SPC) proved most successful for NTVC quantification. However, FISH/SPC does not differentiate V.cholerae from closely related species, and it is extremely labor intensive and expensive. In this project, an approach based on alternative molecular recognition molecules –APTAMERS– are proposed. Aptamers are short oligonucleotides that bind their target with high selectivity and affinity. They have proven equally efficient as antibodies in many applications. Once an aptamer is identified, unlimited amounts can be produced at low costs. To date, however, there are no aptamers available for V.cholerae.
    Two main goals shall be achieved. First, NTVC abundance shall be comprehensively monitored with state-of-the-art methods along environmental and spatiotemporal gradients in representative bathing waters, and second, a new cutting-edge aptamer technology shall be developed for tailored quantification of NTVC and V.cholerae O1/O139. Prediction models of NTVC abundance in bathing waters shall be delivered as tools for risk assessment and easy protocols for culture-independent quantification of V.cholerae. This will significantly contribute to improved disease preparedness and public health concerning NTVC in bathing waters and toxigenic V.cholerae in water resources. The resulting aptamer products, applications and intellectual property may be exploited in follow-up translational projects, in form of spin-off companies or transfer to local third-party enterprises. The proposal is directly contributing to the prioritised research area “Intelligent Indication Systems and Diagnostics” within the recent FTI strategy for Lower Austria. Sustainable collaborations will be stimulated between the project partners within the Interuniversity Cooperation Centre Water & Health, a research centre to pioneer cutting edge water quality research. Thus, the project will contribute in a sustainable manner to the welfare of Lower Austria.


    Development of a pioneering water investigation procedure for the drinking water supply of tomorrow

    • Project Number: WST3-F-5031298/001-2017/K3-W-47/007-2017
    • Project Lead: Andreas Farnleitner, Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Division Water Quality and Health
    • Project Partner: EVN Wasser GmbH, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna / Institute of Bioanalytics and Agro-Metabolomics
    • Duration: 24 months starting from 01.09.2018


    The biostability of water, i.e. the ability to store and distribute water without negative microbiological quality changes, is a crucial aspect in public water supply. Biostability is important for the esthetical characteristics of water (e.g. good taste and appearance) and it is essential to protect public health (i.e. conditions to not support the growth of facultative pathogens, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa). The methods for the determination of biostability of water still suffer from major technical shortcomings and require significant future improvements.
    Due to a permanent increase of ground water temperature, caused by the global change (on average 0.05C° per year), growth of facultative pathogens is likely increasing in drinking water. The improved possibility to analyze and predict the growth potential of facultative pathogens in ground- and drinking water is thus becoming more important.
    This research project aims to develop and evaluate a new innovative approach to determine the biostability of ground- and drinking water by using up-to-date high-throughput DNA sequencing technology to screen and predict for bacterial population changes. To enable the tracking of biochemical key-processes in water supply, the possibility to combine the “basic module” with high-resolution chemical analysis will be determined as well. The main focus of AQUASCREEN is directed towards drinking water recourses which have significance in Lower Austria (i.e. well water, spring water, ground water).
    Milestone 1: Established experimental approach for the determination of the bacterial growth potential in ground- and drinking water based on flow cytometry and high-throughput DNA sequencing (“basic module”).
    Milestone 2: Analysis and evaluation of the new possibilities based on a case study with relevance for drinking water supply and comparison of results with traditional approaches.
    Milestone 3: Identified development needs to combine the “basic module” with high-resolution chemical analysis (advanced module “biogeochemistry”) and to detect and differentiate the growth potential of facultative pathogens, as detected by culture-based methods (advanced module “facultative pathogens”).
    The aim of this research proposal is to overcome the methodical limitations of the past and to successfully establish a new strategy supporting the reproducible and straightforward determination of biostability and its prediction in ground- and drinking water. Results of this research will support the development of new practical determination systems (prototypes).

  • REEgain

    Sustainable biological recycling of environmentally hazardous substances (Rare Earth Elements) from electronic waste and wastewater

    • Project Number: Interreg ATCZ172
    • Project Lead: Dominik Schild, IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems / Department of Life Sciences
    • Project Partner: Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Division Water Quality and Health, Mikrobiologický ústav AVČR, Zentrum ALGATECH, Danube University Krems / Center for Biomedical Technology, Saubermacher Dienstleistungs AG, Stark GmbH, Městská Vodohospodářská s.r.o.
    • Duration: 48 months starting from 01.07.2018


    Rare earths are used in electronic devices such as mobile phones, computers and energy-saving bulbs. However, they are scarce and cannot be recycled using eco-friendly methods. Complex and expensive mining, coupled with scarce supply, means that the prices of rare earths on the world market are rising steadily. Due to continuous technical advances, we can already predict that the supply situation for rare earths will become critical in future, which in turn could pose a threat to the development of innovative technologies.

    The project partners aim to counter this trend using a new technology. This involves an approach that has never been used before: recycling by means of microorganisms (bacteria and algae). The goal of the international project partner consortium is to develop a practicable recycling technology in collaboration with regional industry, with a view to reclaiming rare earths from electronic waste and subsequently making the technology available to businesses. The consortium liaises regularly with its strategic partners, which guarantees that market needs and the technological limitations of business are taken into account in the development process.


    Water Quality Monitoring of the Future - Genetic Fecal Markers for the Detection and Determination of Source of Fecal Traces

    • Project Number: SC15_016
    • Project Lead: Andreas Farnleitner, Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Division Water Quality and Health
    • Project Partner: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna / Institute of Bioanalytics and Agro-Metabolomics, Technische Universität Wien / Institute of Chemical, Environmental and Bioscience Engineering, EVN Wasser GmbH
    • Duration: 36 months starting from 01.09.2017


    Molecular faecal pollution diagnostics, based on the detection of genetic faecal microbial source tracking (MST) markers, is about to revolutionise water quality testing. Such applications have been mainly focusing within the fields of recreational water quality monitoring, shellfish production, and maximum daily load monitoring. Scientific knowledge on the application of genetic faecal MST marker diagnostics, to support drinking water supply management and water safety planning, is hardly available yet. The proposed translational research project is going to establish the basic scientific knowledge needed to apply and further develop cutting edge genetic faecal marker diagnostics for quality testing to support water safety plans of drinking water supplies of tomorrow. Genetic faecal MST markers are supposed to extend current monitoring practices based on standard faecal indicator bacteria (SFIB) E. coli and enterococci in order to identify potential contamination sources for elimination or minimisation, and, to bridge the gap between traditional faecal pollution monitoring and microbial risk assessment. However, molecular diagnostics with adequate faecal-source specificity and faecal –source sensitivity is considered a key prerequisite for these applications. A new tiered application strategy for drinking water resources monitoring, based on the combination of bacterial and mitochondrial genetic faecal MST markers, is proposed. The new strategy will systematically be evaluated by means of relevant faecal pollution sources,
    representative water resources in Lower Austria, and important disinfection processes. To enable comparisons to traditional methods investigations will be complemented by SFIB and total cell count analysis. Chemical markers will be evaluated to support genetic MST diagnostics. The topic “Intelligent Indication Systems and Diagnostics” has been defined as prioritised research area within the recent FTI strategy (Programme for Research, Technology & Innovation for Lower Austria). The submitted research proposal is thus directly contributing to the adopted FTI strategy. The translational research project will stimulate sustainable collaborations between the Karl Landsteiner University, the well-established Center for Analytic Chemistry at IFA Tulln and the Interuniversity Cooperation Centre for Water and Health, a research centre to pioneer cutting edge water quality research. Furthermore, the project will directly collaborate with EVN Wasser GesmbH, the leading Lower Austrian drinking water supplier. The project will thus directly establish links between cutting edge water research and activities of a leading drinking water supplier to support the realization of water safety management of the future. Joint collaboration between these excellent partners in research and management will contribute to a further establishment of Lower Austria as a leading region in the water sector within the Danube and Central European Region.

  • DrinkingWATER@building

    Knowledge transfer and exchange of experience on drinking water quality in buildings

    • Project Number: FFG4952809
    • Project Lead: Thomas Czerny, FH Campus Vienna
    • Project Partner: AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Division Water Quality and Health, OFI - Austrian Research Institute, Ecoplus. The Business Agency of Lower Austria
    • Duration: 6 months starting from 13.10.2014


  1. 14 Mar

    Open House at KL University - March 2020

    14. March 2020, 10:00 - 14:00
    Karl Landsteiner University, Dr.-Karl-Dorrek-Straße 30,3500 Krems, Trakt Y, Erdgeschoß
  2. 27 Mar

    International Skills Lab Symposium 2020

    27. March 2020, 09:00 - 28. March 2020, 18:00
    Karl Landsteiner Privatuniversität für Gesundheitswissenschaften, Skills Lab, Trakt Y
  3. 16 Nov

    Open House at KL University - November 2019

    16. November 2019, 10:00 - 14:00
    Karl Landsteiner Privatuniversität, Dr.-Karl-Dorrek-Straße 30,3500 Krems, Trakt Y, Erdgeschoß