Microbial Interactions and Processes

Microorganisms in the environment are living in complex and interacting communities. Also the surfaces of the human body are inhabitated by microorganisms, where the bacterial cell number significantly exceeds that of the human cells. These communities have co-evolved with the human host and are typically important for human health. They can, however, also be a reservoir for pathogenic microorganisms.


Our Research

Even though an immense amount of knowledge is available on single microorganisms, our understanding of the functioning of complex communities of millions of cells and of hundreds or thousands of species is limited. Such complex communities also inhabit the human body, where, by different mechanisms, they support human health.

However, if the complex balance between microbial communities and human host becomes unbalanced, this may result in disease. Moreover, the communities inhabiting humans may also be a reservoir for pathogenic microoganisms.

Example nose:

Roughly 20-30 % of humans permanently carry Staphylococcus aureus in their nose. Even though this colonisation of the nares is asymptomatic, it was shown to be the major source and risk factor for invasive infections by Staphylococcus aureus, an increasingly multi-resistant pathogen causing a large spectrum of infectious diseases with high morbidity and mortality.

Although differences in colonisation may be due to host factors such as host immunity, age and gender, and/or environmental factors, the interplay between these factors and the interactions among community members have yet to be thoroughly investigated. We are currently analyzing the interactions between S. aureus and other members of the nasal community, to provide insights for future intervention strategies for the control of health care- and community-associated infections due to S. aureus.

Example gut:

The microbial community structure of our intestine is determined by genetic and environmental factors, such as our nutrition. Depending on the genetic predisposition and environmental factors, the intestinal microbial communities may become unbalanced, resulting in disease. In model systems, we are analyzing the impact of the human host microbiota composition and activity on poorly understood intestinal diseases.

However, microorganisms inhabiting the gut or nose are living in complex communities, where only the minority of community members may be isolated and be obtained and analyzed in traditional pure culture studies. In order to understand microbial communities, it is necessary to apply methods which do not rely on culturing the microorganisms, and thus methods originating in molecular microbial ecology research rather than in infection research.


Bachelor & Master
Are you interested in a bachelor or master thesis? We are looking forward to your request!

Audio Podcast

  • Staphylococcus aureus – der Feind in meiner NaseEin kräftiger Nieser und der Luftdruck katapultiert Millionen von Bakterien aus unserer Nase. Auch wenn wir keinen Schnupfen haben. Ein häufiger Nasenbewohner ist Staphylococcus aureus und wenn der mit dem Luftstoß zufällig auf eine Wunde trifft, haben wir ein Problem… Dietmar Pieper und sein Team wollen wissen, wer noch so alles in unserer Nase lebt – und was wir gegen unerwünschte Bewohner wie Staphylococcus aureus unternehmen können.
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