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PathoGenoMik Würzburg

The network of competence (Kompetenznetz) "Genomic research on pathogenic bacteria" (Pathogenomics)

is one of three networks which are working on structural and functional analysis of small (bacterial) genomes. The network of competence "Pathogenomics" focuses on pathogenic bacteria. The center of this network is based at the University of Würzburg .

Successful research has been done to understand many pathogenic bacteria and their treatment with antibiotics and other therapeutics, and even worldwide vaccination programs have been carried out successfully for some diseases. Nevertheless, infectious diseases, caused by many bacteria, are still a serious threat for man and animals. The pandemic spread of the well-known agent of tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, as well as the ongoing epidemic outbreaks of infections, caused by Salmonella, Shigella, pathogenic Escherichia coli besides others, led to unchanged (sometimes even increasing) mortality and morbidity in man, especially in developing countries with insufficient hygienic standards.

Infectious diseases still play the major role even in developed countries, mainly due to the high number of immunocompromized and older people. One of the major problems are so called "nosocomial" infections (infections acquired in hospital), above all caused by Gram positive Cocci such as Staphylococci or Enterococci and Gram-negative pathogens like Pseudomonas or Enterobacteriacea. Besides their virulence, many of these bacterial strains gain multiple resistance to drugs that makes them hardly treatable (or even absolutely untreatable) with common antibiotics. Additionally there are still new bacterial pathogens emerging, such as Legionella pneumophila, which causes serious pneumonia. Helicobacter pylori, an extremely wide spread pathogen was identified a few years ago to cause gastric ulcer and -lymphoma of the stomach. Chlamydia pneumoniae, a long known obligate intracellular bacterium, has recently been linked to arteriosclerosis.

The industrial mass production of food leads to further problems in outbreaks of infections. Besides the above mentioned pathogenic strains of Salmonella and E. coli, mainly EHEC, there are other pathogens especially Staphylococci and Listeria, which represent a high risk factor. Often food born diseases lead to serious systemic infections in human beings. It is true that the latter mentioned bacteria are all treatable with common antibiotics, but increasing resistance to these drugs, observed in many of these pathogens, also increases their potential to cause serious infections.

New methodical approaches in genomic research (sequencing of whole genomes, high throughput technologies to identify the expression of whole regulons and their genes, bioinformatic analysis of DNA- and protein sequences to predict structure and function) have the additional effect of a fresh impetus to research on basic mechanisms in bacterial pathogenesis. Furthermore these approaches open new ways to improve diagnostic procedures, therapies to prevent bacterial infections.

The network of competence "genomic research on pathogenic bacteria" focuses on those pathogenic bacteria which are of high scientific and public health interest, but also have a high potential for the development of new diagnostic, prophylactic and therapeutic procedures.

These pathogenic microorganisms under investigation can be divided into three major groups. Each of those groups will be researched by one of three interacting alliances. Each ally focuses on a common goal in basic research as well as in its application. Starting point of the scheduled investigations is the analysis of the bacterial genomes. Their contents will be analysed with modern bioinformatic tools and high throughput technologies (DNA-chips, transcriptome analysis, genomic mutant databases, IVET-methods and so on) to get insight in their meaning of pathogenesis. With this intended "Pathogenomics" approach, new methods for diagnosis, chemotherapeutics and vaccines are expected.


PathoGenoMik Würzburg

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