Home / University / University Hospitals / Department of Hygiene and Microbiology / Research projects
Department of Hygiene and Microbiology


  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa

    Development of an electrochemical sensor for the rapid detection of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in hospitals

    • Project Number: LSC17_015
    • Project Lead: Martin Brandl, Danube University Krems / Center for Integrated Sensor Systems
    • Project Partner: Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Institute of Hygiene and Microbiology (University Hospital St. Pölten)
    • Duration: 36 months starting from 01.01.2019


    Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a high-risk bacterial pathogen. Therefore, rapid detection and further identification are important targets in medicine, food industry and drinking water hygiene to ensure public health and safety. P. aeruginosa is a widely spread soil and water bacterium and is regarded as a major hospital germ. Infections with P. aeruginosa are a common cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Current methods for detection are often based on classical cultivation, microscopic and biochemical analyzes, and also molecular methods are increasingly used. However, all of these procedures are often time-consuming, expensive, require special equipment and trained personnel. An electrochemical methodology for a Pseudomonas detector is to be developed in the planned NFB project. This biosensor can facilitate the detection of P. aeruginosa as a "pretester" and as an early warning system accelerate the
    overall diagnosis of this bacterial pathogen. In the cultivation of the bacterium on cetrimide agar, the release of pyocyanin, a blue-green secondary metabolite, which is specifically produced by P. aeruginosa, results in colored colonies. However, pyocyanine also has redox-active properties and, therefore, can be used for a specific, electrochemical detection of these bacteria. The electroactive properties of pyocyanine can be determined with different voltametric and amperometric methods, e.g. cyclic voltammetry. This bacterial secondary metabolite serves as a starting point for the development of methods, which is carried out at the Danube University Krems, Center for Integrated Sensor Systems, Working Group "Water and Environmental Sensors". The developed procedure is then to be tested with hospital samples from the Clinic Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology, University Hospital St. Pölten. Finally, the results obtained from the detected infection exciter are to be evaluated by the novel sensor and the validated hospital analysis.


    Combinatory Bioactivity Screening

    • Project Number: LSC16_005
    • Project Lead: Martin Wagner, FFoQSI
    • Project Partner: Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Institute of Hygiene and Microbiology (University Hospital St. Pölten), University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna / Institute for Applied Genetics and Cell Biology, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna / Institute for Milk Hygiene
    • Duration: 36 months starting from 01.01.2018


    For decades virtually every easily cultivable microorganism has been investigated in pharmaceutical highthrough put screens (HTP) for natural bioactive compound production and after observation of a constantly increasing rediscovery rate of bioactive compounds the source was declared empty. As a consequence; large scale screening programs for natural bioactive compounds were mostly terminated. However, in recent years, the interest in natural bioactive compounds has been reignited based on mass sequencing results of microbial genomes predicting a much richer diversity of microbial metabolites than previously anticipated. These so called “cryptic” metabolites hold the potential for novel antibiotics, directly needed for the armsrace against the ever increasing incidence of pathogenic resistance. A promising approach to activate the production of “cryptic” metabolites is co-cultivation of competing microorganisms. For example fungi and bacteria are talented producers of natural compounds with potentially strong bioactive functions. In a previous work we could demonstrate that small chemical effectors induce or increase the production of otherwise repressed compounds in fungi which raises the chance of discovery of novel compounds. In addition it has been demonstrated that biotrophic conditions influence the production of bioactive compounds in fungi. Thus as innovative screening attempt we propose a high throughput assay combining small chemical effector treatment with combinatorial growth of fungi and bacteria under various biotrophic conditions. We will realize an automated HTP pipeline to co-cultivate 144 selected bacterial strains with 32 different fungi using 4 small chemical effectors under 4 biotrophic conditions. The 73728 so produced culture extracts will be screened for their ability to counteract microbial resistance in a direct approach for the presence of novel antibiotic compounds not susceptible to commonly found microbial resistances from human and veterinary sources in Lower Austria. Furthermore, in an indirect screening approach we will generate reporter strains primed for the presence of erm or cfr methylase mediated antibiotic resistance inhibitors. These resistance mechanisms are based on methylation of 16S rRNA which mediates resistance against several antibiotics at the same time and so far no in vivo active inhibitor has been discovered. The proposed project will deliver a co-cultivation HTP pipeline and a highly divers set of HTP assays for target driven screening attempts and has the potential to discover novel bioactive compounds.

  • Candida

    Exploitation of Candida-Lactobacillus interactions as potential probiotic targets

    • Project Number: LSC16_016
    • Project Lead: Christoph Schüller, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna / Institute for Applied Genetics and Cell Biology
    • Project Partner: Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Institute of Hygiene and Microbiology (University Hospital St. Pölten)
    • Duration: 45 months starting from 01.11.2017


    Candida cells are common human commensals found on the skin and genitourinary tract. They cause mucosal infections which may progress to systemic candidosis. Of all cases of vulvo-vaginal candidosis (VVC) C. albicans and C. glabrata species occur in 90% and 8%, respectively. In the vaginal tract Candida cells compete with the commensal bacterial microflora. In healthy individuals bacteria and fungi co-exist in equilibrium. Treatment with antifungals aims at restoring the microbial balance. Here we propose to address current VVC treatment along three lines 1) to investigate the interactions that occur between Candida spp. and three abundant Lactobacillus species found in the vaginal tract to support the establishment of equilibrium; 2) to analyse local (eastern Austrian) candida strains for their genetic traits; and 3) to evaluate the efficacy of common probiotics and 4) find novel substances able to fight fungi and promote bacteria. The consortium combines clinical resources, molecular biology of Candida, cell culture, and robotic screening. Lactobacillus spp. restrict the progress of Candida in the vaginal tract by producing lactic and acetic acid and also by influencing in an undefined manner the nutrient availability, adherence to vaginal epithelium, biofilm formation, quorum sensing and stress resistance. The environmental and genetic factors triggering microbial imbalance in the vaginal tract constitute a complex host-microbe interaction system. We will address the Candida-Lactobacillus interaction in vitro in combinatorial co-culture on reconstituted human epithelium model system. We will especially focus on C. glabrata since it is harder to treat and much less explored compared to C. albicans. We will attempt to identify C. glabrata genetics and physiological responses involved in colonization of the vaginal tract. The physiological aspect covers the Candida-Lactobacillus interference on gene expression, adherence and biofilm formation properties. Genetic analysis will exploit and characterize lower Austria region clinical C. glabrata isolates. Furthermore, compounds will be screened in high throughput for their ability to foster the presence of different Lactobacillus strains and suppress the growth of Candida. We expect the identified novel targets to be useful for antifungal strategies against Candida to favour benign commensal populations. A considerable industry is selling probiotics for this purpose however with only partly documented efficacy. The projected work will seek novel alternative compounds to improve treatments in the future.


    The importance of phage-induced transduction for the acquisition and persistence of antibiotic resistance

    • Project Number: LSC14_006
    • Project Lead: Friederike Hilbert, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna / Institute of Food Safety, Food Technology and Veterinary Public Health
    • Project Partner: Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Institute of Hygiene and Microbiology (University Hospital St. Pölten)
    • Duration: 42 months starting from 01.03.2016


    Hospital-acquired-infections caused by antibiotic resistant pathogens is a global concern to public health. Even the Obama Administration has recently acknowledged the need for innovative research to slow down the public health threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria with a National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB). The increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistant and multi-drug-resistant pathogens has been shown to considerably expand the burden of disease, despite numerous infection control measures and modern hospital epidemiology. Thus,antimicrobial resistance in microbes is considered to be one of the major threats in medicine and public health worldwide. The horizontal spread of antimicrobial resistance between bacteria is a critical step in the development of resistance during therapy, the dissemination of resistance between different bacterial species, the acquisition of resistance from environmental sources, and the evolution of the bacterial host. An understanding of the mechanisms of horizontal transfer of antimicrobial resistance genes between microorganisms inside and outside of the host is essential to finding strategies to combat their spread. Current knowledge is that the transfer of resistance factors is largely due to conjugative plasmids or transposons and only to a minor extent transduction via bacteriophages. However, based on whole genome sequencing it has been hypothesized that the latter mechanism might play a substantially more important role in the transfer of antimicrobial resistance than is currently accepted. Recently we were able to show that phage transduction is of primary importance in the acquisition of therapeutically important resistance genes in Escherichia coli found on food. We reported that chicken meat carries a number of coli-phages capable of transferring antimicrobial resistance. High numbers of randomly tested phages were able to transduce one or more antimicrobial resistances. Phage transduction of specific resistance elements appears to be widely distributed. This mechanism of transfer may explain unanswered questions regarding the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistant pathogens. In this proposal we hypothesize that transduction of antibiotic resistance by phages in the medical environment takes place and has important consequences for human health. Thus, the development of new control strategies to cope with phage persistence and transduction need to be found. Thus, we propose to investigate the significance of transduction in the medical environment for hospital-associated pathogens causing major problems by means of antibiotic resistance like Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. We will isolate and characterize antimicrobial resistance transferring phages, clarify the mechanisms of transfer, analyse the therapeutic importance and finally explore the transduced bacterial host for phage transmission and virulence.


  1. 17 Sep

    International Skills Lab Symposium 2020

    17. September 2020, 09:00 - 19. September 2020, 18:00
    Karl Landsteiner Privatuniversität für Gesundheitswissenschaften, Skills Lab, Trakt Y
  2. 14 Mar

    Open House - March 2020 - CANCELLED

    14. March 2020, 10:00 - 14:00
    Karl Landsteiner University, Dr.-Karl-Dorrek-Straße 30,3500 Krems, Trakt Y, Erdgeschoß
  3. 27 Feb

    Neurophysiology symposium: Ion channels in nerve cells and associated diseases

    27. February 2020, 15:30 - 18:30
    Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences, Wing Y, Auditorium