Hygiene prize winner
Dr Cristina Zubiria-Barrera, Prof. Martin Exner und PD Dr Tilman E. Klassert (from left)

HZI researchers awarded the Hygiene Prize 2024

Tilman E. Klassert and Cristina Zubiria-Barrera received the Hygiene Prize 2024 of the Rudolf Schülke Foundation

Every two years, the Rudolf Schülke Foundation awards the Hygiene Prize to researchers who have achieved special solutions to problems in the fields of hygiene, infection prevention or public health. This year, the award was split: One half went to PD Dr Tilman E. Klassert and Dr Cristina Zubiria-Barrera from the "Dynamics of Respiratory Infections" research group at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI). The group is headed by Prof. Hortense Slevogt, who is also a senior physician for clinical infectiology at the Clinic for Pneumology and Infectiology at Hannover Medical School (MHH).

The Hygiene Prize was awarded on 15 March 2024 in Hamburg and was presented by the Chairman of the Rudolf Schülke Foundation, Prof. Martin Exner. The foundation honors scientific publications that deal with the prevention and control of infectious diseases and contribute to the development and application of prevention and control strategies, procedures for antiseptics, disinfection, cleaning and patient safety. The Hygiene Prize is endowed with a total of 15,000 euros.

As part of the award-winning study, a research team led by Klassert and Zubiria-Barrera investigated how colonization with microorganisms develops in a newly constructed hospital building and how antibiotic-resistant germs spread in the process. To this end, they collected surface samples from door handles, floors and washbasins in nine different hospital rooms over a period of more than six months following the completion of the new high-rise bed block at Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, before and after they were occupied for the first time. Using high-throughput sequencing methods, the researchers determined the composition of the hospital microbiome – i.e. the entirety of all microorganisms and their genes - and the distribution of antibiotic resistance genes from a total of 1547 samples. The aim of the study was to gain a deeper understanding of the microbial colonization of a hospital environment in order to ultimately be able to contain the spread of dangerous hospital germs.

The "Dynamics of Respiratory Infections" research group was established at the HZI in the fall of 2022 and was initiated by the recently deceased Director of the Clinic for Pneumology and Infectiology at the MHH, Prof. Tobias Welte, among others.

To the original press release of the Rudolf Schülke Foundation

Original publication

Tilman E. Klassert, Rasmus Leistner, Cristina Zubiria-Barrera, Magdalena Stock, Mercedes López, Robert Neubert, Dominik Driesch, Petra Gastmeier & Hortense Slevogt: Bacterial colonization dynamics and antibiotic resistance gene dissemination in the hospital environment after first patient occupancy: a longitudinal metagenetic study. Microbiome (2021), DOI: 10.1186/s40168-021-01109-7

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