Research – University of Copenhagen

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Researcher of the month:

Helena Leinweber,

e-mail: Helena.leinweber@sund.ku.dk
twitter: @LeinweberHelena

University of Copenhagen
Department for Veterinary and Animal Sciences
Stigbøjlen 4
1870 Frederiksberg C

Education and Experience

In April 2014 I successfully finished my bachelor studies in `Bio Science and Health´ at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences in Kleve. This unique study was designed very interdisciplinary and was built up from several branches of biosciences and sciences of management. During a practical semester in the R&D department `Hygiene and allergies´ at Henkel AG and Co. KGaA in Düsseldorf, Germany, my interest in microbiology was increased significantly as I worked in this field intensively. I could also write my bachelor thesis in this company, entitled `Microbial malodours in textiles and washing machines after washing´.

Following the bachelor studies I conducted a 3 month internship at the Department of Food Safety at the Institute of Hygiene and Environment Hamburg, Germany. Here I was working with isolation and characterisation of bacteria causing food spoilage and intoxications. I was using qPCR to optimize enrichment broths for STEC as well as a DNA purification protocol for emetic B. cereus.

In 2014 I started my Master studies in `Microbiology´ at the Rheinische-Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn, Germany. In 4 semesters, several fields of microbiology were combined, in theoretical as well as in practical courses. This included for example general, medical or oral microbiology, zoonoses or food microbiology. In the course of my master studies I had the chance to conduct a 3-month, ERASMUS+ funded internship in the same working group I am placed in now, which was followed by my 6-month master project. The work was about screening chicken meat for the presence of vancomycin resistant enterococci by using classical microbiological methods as well as optimising a quantitative real-time PCR assay. This work resulted in a publication in International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents `Vancomycin resistance in Enterococcus faecium isolated from Danish chicken meat is located on a pVEF4-like plasmid persisting in poultry for 18 years´, 2018.

Project: ESR12 Phages in Virulence and Transmission of Antibiotic Resistance

Project description

The numbers of human infections with livestock-associated MRSA (LA-MRSA) have increased dramatically over the last 10 years. LA-MRSA most likely developed from human-associated, methicillin susceptible S. aureus, by losing phage-encoded human virulence genes and acquiring tetracycline and methicillin resistance. However, most LA-MRSA isolates colonizing or infecting humans carry an immune evasion cluster for human specific immune modulation. Those genes are re-introduced by the Sa3int bacteriophage family, indicating a very specific role in the host jump. The focus of this project lies upon elucidating the biology of those lysogenic phages. This includes determining conditions that trigger the lytic-lysogenic switch as well as investigating their ability to transduce and auto-transduce virulence and antibiotic resistance genes. In cooperation with Wageningen University and Schothorst Feed Research, The Netherlands, we will determine and characterize the phages that are most prevalent on a pig farm. We will also test predicted conditions that minimize the transmission of the phages in this environment and thereby potentially limit the risk of human infections with LA-MRSA.