Epidemiology and ecology of antimicrobial resistance

Due to the interconnectedness between humans, animals and the environment, as well as the rapid potential for antimicrobial resistance to spread between bacterial species, we need a One Health approach to adequately address the threat of antibiotic resistance. This department is based at the Helmholtz Institute for One Health.

Prof Dr Katharina Schaufler


Prof Dr Katharina Schaufler
Head of Research Group

Our Research

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an increasing threat to public health. Many antibiotics, indispensable tools in the fight against bacterial infectious diseases, are losing their effectiveness as different and novel multi-drug resistant pathogens are on the rise. AMR arises naturally through mutations in the genes of the bacteria to be combated - and can be transferred between microbes through horizontal transfer of resistance genes. As antibiotics are routinely and excessively used to fight bacterial infections in both humans and animals, and the transfer of bacteria between these hosts is common, increasing antibiotic resistance can be observed. In addition, the use of antibiotics in veterinary and human medicine can have an impact on bacteria and AMR in the environment and on wildlife, e.g. through pollution of water bodies. The interdependencies between AMR in humans, animals and the environment as well as the rapid spread potential of AMR between bacterial species make a One Health approach essential to tackle this urgent global problem. One of the questions we address is how antibiotic resistance develops and spreads. Among other things, we are dedicated to the question of how antibiotic resistance develops and spreads. Our work includes not only the identification and classification of classical resistances and their epidemiological evaluation, but also the in-depth investigation of bacterial virulence and fitness factors, such as the formation of bacterial biofilms, as well as the establishment of alternative therapeutic strategies. With the help of genotypic and phenotypic experiments as well as functional and phylogenetic genome and transcriptome analyses, our primary goal is to analyze, better understand and ultimately combat successful pandemic pathogens.