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Infectious diseases

Infectious diseases still pose one of the greatest threats to human health. Although breakthroughs in their control have been achieved in recent decades through improved therapies, vaccines and diagnostics, infectious diseases still account for just over a quarter of annual deaths worldwide.

These diseases can be caused by a wide variety of organisms. They include bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa and parasites. In fact, until the discovery of antibiotics, these pathogens were the leading cause of death in humans. In recent years, however, multi- and even pan-resistant germs against which antibiotics are no longer effective have been on the rise in increasing numbers, prompting the World Health Organization in 2018 to declare the antibiotic resistance crisis a global threat to modern societies. 
There are two ways this problem can be combated. First, new antibiotics can be developed against which resistance has not yet developed. Second, efficient disease control measures can be taken to prevent the further spread of resistant germs. For the second, in addition to cost-effective diagnostic methods, epidemiological studies are needed that can detect impending dangers and developments in good time. 

In our working group at AIT, we are researching solutions that are relevant for both disease protection and the development of new antibiotics. In the past, we have developed and clinically validated a diagnostic test that can detect all relevant antibiotic resistances. In collaboration with our clinical partners, we have also analyzed the epidemiological situation in several European hospitals. In parallel, we are working on concepts for new classes of antibiotics based on antimicrobial peptides, bacteriophages or DNA nanostructures as well as on computer-aided methods to facilitate the design of new antibiotics. 

Selected Projects

FAPIC www.fapic.eu  H2020
MARA www.maraproject.eu  H2020
MARILIA www.mariliaproject.eu H2020
InChild Health    Horizen Europe

Selected Publications

  • Wolff et al. Full pathogen characterisation: species identification including the detection of virulence factors and antibiotic resistance genes via multiplex DNA-assays. Scientific Reports. 2021.
  • D’Onofrio et al. Epidemiology of colistin-resistant, carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae and Acinetobacter baumannii in Croatia. Infection, Genetics and Evolution: Journal of Molecular Epidemiology and Evolutionary Genetics in Infectious Diseases. 2020.
  • Hendling et al. Oli2go: An automated multiplex oligonucleotide design tool. Nucleic Acids Res. 2018.
  • Barišić et al. High diversity of beta-lactamases in the General Hospital Vienna verified by whole genome sequencing and statistical analysis. Infection, Genetics and Evolution: Journal of Molecular Epidemiology and Evolutionary Genetics in Infectious Diseases. 2014.
  • Barišić et al. Multiplex detection of antibiotic resistance genes using padlock probes. Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease. 2013.