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Silvia Cervero-Arago
Silvia Cervero-Arago, PhD

Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology (Institute for Hygiene and Applied Immunology)
Position: Research Associate (Postdoc)

ORCID: 0000-0002-3224-2317
T +43 1 40160 33057

Further Information


Amoeba; Cryptosporidium; Disinfection; Giardia lamblia; Legionella; Microbial Interactions; Water Microbiology

Research group(s)

Research interests

My main research interest is the ecology of water-related health relevant microorganisms.

At our unit , we deal with the quality of  drinking water resources, with water in health care facilities and for medical applications, with bathing water and surface water as well as wastewater in relation to human health. The prevention of water-associated diseases can only be successful if the systems are considered holistically, therefore we are members of the International Cooperation Center Water & Health (ICC Water & Health).

I focused my research in the area of water hygiene, developing culture and molecular methods for the detection and enumeration of Legionella spp. and free-living amoeba, as well as studying how the interaction between them impact the performance of the disinfection strategies applied. After my dissertation I moved to Vienna to work as a post-doc in the Unit Water Hygiene. For the past years I’ve been working in several projects (FWF Project P24535) in which I studied the infectivity potential that viable but non-cultivable Legionella may have by designing microbe-host interaction models (see publications list). Nowadays I’m still working on this topic; however I’ve broadened my research interest to protozoal waterborne pathogens such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium (see WWTF project). 


Techniques, methods & infrastructure

In order to study the ecology of water-related health relevant microorganisms several methods can be used including culture based methods as well as molecular methods. The molecular methods I'm familiar with include PCR, qPCR, in-situ PCR, Fluorescent in-situ hybridization (FISH), CARD-FISH, several staining techniques, Immunomagnetic separation protocols and basic flow cytometry. Furthermore, I’ve also worked performing infectivity assays using free-living amoeba and cell culture (THP-1 cells) as hosts. 


Selected publications

  1. Dietersdorfer, E. et al., 2018. Starved viable but non-culturable (VBNC) Legionella strains can infect and replicate in amoebae and human macrophages. Water Research, 141, pp.428-438. Available at:
  2. Cervero-Arago, S. et al., 2015. Effect of Common Drinking Water Disinfectants, Chlorine and Heat, on Free Legionella and Amoebae-Associated Legionella A. C. Singer, ed. PLOS ONE, 10(8), p.e0134726. Available at:
  3. Cervero-Arago, S., Sommer, R. & Araujo, R.M., 2014. Effect of UV irradiation (253.7 nm) on free Legionella and Legionella associated with its amoebae hosts. Water Research, 67, pp.299-309. Available at:
  4. Stevenson, M.E. et al., 2015. Biotin- and Glycoprotein-Coated Microspheres as Surrogates for Studying Filtration Removal of Cryptosporidium parvum in a Granular Limestone Aquifer Medium C. R. Lovell, ed. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 81(13), pp.4277-4283. Available at:
  5. Rodriguez-Martinez, S. et al., 2013. Multilocus sequence typing of Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli strains isolated from environmental waters in the Mediterranean area. Environmental Research, 127, pp.56-62. Available at: