Clinical and Experimental Microbiology
The Clinical and Experimental Microbiology Group, led by Prof. Vicente Ausina, MD, PhD, Head of the Microbiology Service at Hospital Unviversitari Germans Trias i Pujol, constitutes a consolidated multidisciplinary research group accredited by the Catalan Government. The Group has been involved in the Spanish research networks REIPI (Red Española de Centros de Investigación en Patología Infecciosa), RESITRA (Reded de Grupos de Infección y Trasplante), and currently several group members belong to CibeRes (Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red en Enfermedades Respiratorias) while some others belong to CiberEsp (Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red en Epidemiología y Salud Pública).
The research group focuses its activity in the development, standardization and clinical evaluation of microbiological, immunological and molecular techniques susceptible to be used in the diagnosis of infectious diseases. Additionally, part of the research activity of the Group is devoted to the development of experimental models in infectious pathology, the study of the molecular mechanisms underlying antimicrobial resistance, and on the assessment of the antimicrobial activity of new antiseptic and disinfectants. Historically, our research has predominantly been focused on respiratory pathogens and, especially, on Mycobacterium tuberculosis and opportunistic mycobacteria. Additionally, other research lines leaded by different group members, such as molecular virology, pathogenesis of viral infection, immunology of inflammation and new bacterial anti-inflammatory molecules, as well as epidemiology and public health of communicable diseases, have acquired more relevance over the last decade.[m1]
Research lines on tuberculosis in the CibeRes context
PIs: V. Ausina, PJ. Cardona and JA. Domínguez
Within the CibeRes research Corporative Programmes, our Group participates in the Tuberculosis Corporative Programme. The Group coordinator (V. Ausina) coordinates this Programme and also the 2016-2019 triennial project "New research and innovation on tuberculosis: prevention, diagnosis and treatment", which involves seven CibeRes research groups. The Group's main objectives are:
- Basic research studies of the latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). To study the pathogenic mechanisms of latent tuberculosis and its progression to active disease through the study of infected individuals and animal experimental models. These studies are mainly funded by the European Union and lead by Dr. PJ Cardona (Experimental Tuberculosis Unit, IGTP).
- Development of novel attenuated vaccines for the prophylaxis of tuberculosis (in collaboration with Dr. C. Martín, University of Zaragoza, and in the context of the European project NEWTBVAC). The degree of protection will be studied in several animal experimental models.
- New therapeutic strategies against tuberculosis (in collaboration with Dr. JA Ainsa, University of Zaragoza, and other national and international groups in the European Union). Our Group collaborates in the study of resistance mechanisms to classic and new antituberculous drugs, to study the antimycobactericidal activity of new drugs in animal experimental models, and to evaluate novel prophylactic/therapeutic compounds against tuberculosis.
- Development and assessment of new tuberculosis diagnostic methods (lead by Dr. José Domínguez, IGTP, in collaboration with several CibeRes groups and other research groups). This is achieved through several national and international projects as well as R&D contracts with the diagnostics industry. The main aims are to develop new immunologic methods for the diagnosis of tuberculosis, to study the usefulness of the urine metabolomic profile for the diagnosis of tuberculosis, to assess novel molecular methods for the detection of resistance to antituberculous drugs, and to develop new rapid methods for M. tuberculosis genotyping.
- Comprehensive epidemiological surveillance study of MTBC strains circulating in Catalonia through several molecular methods.
Projects related with host-microorganism interactions in the CibeRes context
PI: C. Prat
Whithin the CibeRes research Corporative Programmes, our Group also participates in the "Corporative Programme on new therapeutic targets for respiratory infections". This Programme as well as the 2016-2019 project "Overcoming respiratory infections through explotation of pathogen and host-directed novel therapeutics", which involves 8 CibeRes groups, is Dra. Junkal Garmendia (University of Navarra). This Project consists of three WPs with the following objectives: WP1. Characterization of pathogen factors essential for adaptation to and infection of respiratory system; WP2. Characterization of cellular factors involved in pathogen replication, persistence and infection progression; WP3. Development and preclinical validation of novel therapies and drug delivery systems.
The research line in respiratory infections and inflammatory response is developed in this context. Studies are performed to set up and validate diagnostic assays for respiratory infections, to evaluate inflammatory response biomarkers for several infectious syndromes, and there is an especial interest in the microorganism-pathogen relationship in the context of the pathogenesis and epidemiology of respiratory infections by Staphylococcus aureus and Haemophilus influenzae.
Epidemiologic studies of sexually-transmitted infections including HIV and HCV, in the CiberEsp context
PI: L. Matas
In collaboration with CEEISCAT (Center of Epidemiologic Studies on STI and HIV of Catalonia), directed by Dr. J. Casabona (Grup 27, CiberEsp), several surveillance studies on sexually-transmitted infections (STI) are performed to monitor the evolution of their prevalence in several population groups. These studies are funded by the Public Health Department of the Ministry of Health of the Generalitat de Catalunya, national and European agencies, as well as the industry. These data are relevant for the articulation of
Public Health responses to the new challenges offered by infectious diseases, improving their prevention, and developing new recommendations. Two main approaches are performed:
- Epidemiologic studies of HIV, HCV and STI prevalence in sentinel populations ranging from newborns to hard-to reach populations at risk. We use modified serological tests for the detection of antibodies to HIV and HCV, and real-time PCR assays for the detection of STIs.
- Longitudinal observational studies in vulnerable populations. Clinical specimens and epidemiological data are prospectively collected from established cohorts: a) ITACA cohort (HIV-negative men who have sex with men); b) Check-ear project (HIV, HCV, HBV, Treponema pallidum, Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae in HIV-negative men who have sex with men attending the community-based screening center BCN Checkpoint; and c) detection of the recent infection by HIV with the Recent Infection Testing Algorithm (RITA).
Research on Clinical Virology and New Diagnostic Approaches
PI: E. Martró
E. Martró (Miguel Servet Researcher on the National Health System) leads the Research Group on Clinical Virology and New Diagnostic Approaches, which promotes multidisciplinary translational research to improve the diagnostics, prognostics and management of infections caused by viruses and other pathogens with an impact on clinical applications and public health. The main research lines are as follows:
- Hepatitis C (HCV): Viral hepatitis is an international public health challenge, comparable to other major communicable diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Currently, HCV infection can be cured by antiviral treatment. However, many infected persons are unaware of their infection and, for those who are diagnosed, access to treatment is limited. Globally, the morbidity and mortality associated with HCV infection continues to increase, due to HCV-related complications including cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma and liver failure.
The research activity of the group in this line centres on the study of HCV genetic variability in relation to:
- The prediction of response to antiviral treatments (baseline genetic diversity and resistance-associated substitutions)
- The prediction of the progression of hepatic fibrosis.
- The characterization of the molecular epidemiology of HCV (description of new subtypes, characterization of transmission events and networks)
We also work on the design and application of new strategies and tools to improve the diagnosis of active infection by HCV in high-risk and difficult-to-reach populations, as the first step to treatment.
- Other Viral Infections: The Group also studies other clinically-relevant viruses at the genetic level in order to improve their diagnosis, and to characterize their molecular epidemiology and clinical associations including cancer, in collaboration with other research groups at IGTP. These viruses include the Hepatitis B virus, the human Papillomavirus (VPH), and the Molluscum contagiosum virus.
- Other Infectious Diseases: The group collaborates in the development and validation of molecular assays for the diagnosis of other infectious diseases, in the research lines of "Sepsis" and "Epidemiologic studies of sexually-transmitted diseases including HIV and HCV, in the CiberEsp context". Members of the Research Group on Clinical Virology and New Diagnostic Approaches (E. Martró and V. Saludes) are members of Group 27 in CiberEsp (lead by J. Casabona, Scientific Director of CEEISCAT), and have optimized various diagnostic techniques adapted for minimally invasive sampling (urine, saliva, fingerpick blood etc.) for the screening of sexually-transmitted infections in vulnerable populations attending alternative testing centers, contributing to their epidemiological characterization with public health applications.
PIs: V. Ausina, M. Giménez and E. Martró
This Research line addresses four main goals:
- To speed the diagnosis of sepsis and meningitis with new molecular platforms. Since 2009, we have performed several evaluations in different patient groups of a novel technology based on PCR amplification followed by ESI-TOF mass spectrometry (current platform named IRIDICA) for the early diagnosis of sepsis from whole blood, avoiding culture. This platform was initially developed by Ibis Biosciences (Carlsbad, CA), currently a subsidiary of Abbott. Our laboratory participated in the international multicenter validation of this technology (Early Access Program), as the only center in Spain.
- Detection of quorum sensing molecules from pathogens associated with sepsis and respiratory infections. In collaboration with the Nanobiotechnology for Diagnostics (Nb4D) Group (IQAC-CSIC/CIBER-BBN), we have been working in the development of diagnostic assays including and immunosnesor, for the detection of quorum sensing molecules in clinical specimens.
- To speed the diagnosis of sepsis with conventional methods using MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry and susceptibility testing directly from positive blood cultures.
- To give a personalized microbiological advice to clinicians for each diagnosis of sepsis in order to accelerate the initiation of the adequate antibiotic treatment.
Antiseptics and disinfectants
PI: Á. Hernández
In this research line, the antimicrobial activity of several biocides is being evaluated in collaboration with several companies and research centers in research projects, as well as R&D and transference activities.
We have contributted to the development of novel biocides that contain submicrometric particles in collaboration with DESPRO S.L. and Laboratorios Sparchim S.L., as well as the "Fundació Institut Català de Nanotecnologia", for the disinfection of surfaces and to reduce the microbial contamination in the environmental surfaces both with an immediate and a remnant activity.
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