Scientific double success for the ICC Water & Health: Austrian Microbiology Award and Hygiene Award 2018
At the 36th Annual Meeting of the Austrian Society for Hygiene, Microbiology and Preventive Medicine (ÖGHMP), held 4 – 7 June 2018 in Graz, both the Austrian Microbiology Award and the Austrian Hygiene Award 2018 were awarded to employees of ICC Water & Health.
A great success of the interuniversity cooperation of the Medical University Vienna, the TU Vienna and the Karl Landsteiner University in Krems.
The Austrian Microbiology Award 2018 went to the two employees of our institute Dr. Silvia Cervero-Aragó and Barbara Schrammel in the team of Prof. Alexander Kirschner from the Department of Water Hygiene (head: Prof. Regina Sommer) for their work* on viable but non-culturable (VBNC) legionellae. Significant scientific support also came from Dr. Anna Repic and Prof. Hannes Stockinger and Prof. Julia Walochnik, the head of the Research Group Molecular Parasitology at the Institute for Specific Prophylaxis and Tropical Medicine and her PhD student Elisabeth Dietersdorfer.
Legionella is the causative agent of Legionnaire's disease, one of the most common water-borne infectious diseases in industrial countries. Legionella is usually quantified in water samples using cultivation methods, but many recent studies have shown that the number of viable but nonculturable Legionella cells in water distribution systems can be many times higher than the number of culturable Legionella cells. The investigations tried to assess the potential health relevance of these VBNC legionellae by determining their viability with modern cytometric methods and their infectivity for human cell cultures in laboratory experiments. It was shown for the first time that 1) a considerable proportion of VBNC legionellae retain their viability over a long period of time and 2) these VBNC legionellae can directly infect human macrophages. However, this happens with significantly lower efficiency (longer infection time, higher infection dose, lower number of infected cells) than with culturable cells. Health relevance can therefore not be excluded; protracted disease progressions in immunocompromised persons could be explained by this.
This year's Austrian Hygiene Award was awarded to the two PhD students DI Claudia Kolm and Roland Martzy from the Molecular Diagnostics Group of the TU Vienna at the IFA Tulln under the direction of Dr. Georg Reischer (part of the TU Research Group Prof. Farnleitner) for their work** on the topic "Rapid methods for detecting faecal contamination". Both studies are concerned with the development and evaluation of isothermal amplification methods for the detection of enterococci in water and aim at the 23S rRNA gene as a marker for faecal contamination. To enable specific and simple detection, Claudia used a helicase-dependent amplification method, while in Rolands work LAMP (Loop-mediated isothermal amplification) was the method of choice. Regina Sommer contributed her expertise in the cultivation of enterococci strains to this successful cooperation. The microbiological methods currently used to detect faecal contaminations require a complex laboratory infrastructure and only provide results after one day. In contrast, the newly developed methods could be used on site and without a laboratory and provide information on contamination within one hour.
The work originated from the FWF single project "Health Relevance of VBNC Legionellae" and from the "IsoAmp" project funded by the Lower Austrian Education and Research Society. All publications are freely available on the Internet under the Open Access Option. The ICC Water & Health is a funded cooperation between the Technische Universität Wien, the Medical University of Vienna and - since 2017 - the Karl Landsteiner Private University for Health Sciences in Krems (www.waterandhealth.at).
* Dietersdorfer E, Kirschner AKT, Schrammel B, Ohradanova-Repic A, Stockinger H, Sommer R, Walochnik J, Cervero-Aragó S (2018) Starved viable but non-culturable (VBNC) Legionella strains can infect and replicate in amoebae and human macrophages. Water Research 141 doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2018.01.058
* Schrammel B, Cervero-Arago S, Dietersdorfer E, Walochnik J, Lück C, Sommer R, Kirschner AKT (2018) Differential development of Legionella sub-populations during short- and long-term starvation. Water Research 141, doi: 0.1016/j.watres.2018.04.027
** Kolm, C., Martzy, R., Brunner, K., Mach, R.L. Krska, R., Heinze, G., Sommer, R., Reischer, G.H., Farnleitner, A.H., (2017) A complementary isothermal amplification method to the US EPA qPCR approach for the detection of enterococci in environmental waters. Environ Sci Technol 51(12): 7028-7035.
** Martzy, R., Kolm, C., Brunner, K., Mach, R.L. Krska, R., Šinkovec, H., Sommer, R., Farnleitner, A.H., Reischer, G.H. (2017) A loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) assay for the rapid detection of Enterococcus spp. in water. Water Res 122: 62-69.
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