Main reseach areas

The main research areas of the department relate to microbial dangers in the food chain and how they can be controlled.
The safety of the food chain can be compromised on many levels, ranging from soil health through all stages of processing, to the end consumer. Integration of research areas is one of the primary goals (see K Project PVM).
To identify dangers, effective testing methods are necessary. The department develops, publishes and patents new methods based on nucleid acid analysis (polymerase chain reaction, microarrays) or immunological methods (see also CD MOFA).
Furthermore, it is of importance to detect contamination interactions (which pathogen from where poses a danger to the chain and the consumer). DNA analysis is the daily bread for forensic medicine and food hygiene research. Detection of contamination paths and their spreading mechanisms in and outside of food companies enables the development of preventative measures (see BIOTRACER  IP; Monitoring of Listeria ). Given that many pathogens go through a cycle outside the foodstuff, we seek to closely collaborate with microbial ecology to cover this interface. We oversee the largest listeria strain collection and database in Austria with more than 10,000 isolates.
When pathogens contaminate foodstuffs, they are confronted with many chemical and physical stressors (salt, curing, pickling, heating, freezing, etc.) Pathogen populations counter these human inventions with their astounding ability to adapt. Research on adaptation mechanisms of pathogens to factors of the food chain and the associated defence mechanisms (defensive mechanisms, production of secondary metabolites) shed light onto their risk potential (see TOXIGENOME Project).
Finally, the globalisation of food production is an irrefutable fact. Therefore, we focus on food safety in developing countries and try to improve the situation through adequate training programmes (see homepage of Veterinarians Without Borders Austria).

External funding is acquired through interdisciplinary research. The Institute for Milk Hygiene has acquired more than 3.5 million € in external funding since 2000, raised from the Vienna Business and Technology Fund (WWTF), Vienna Chamber of Commerce (WKÖ), the Christian-Doppler Society (CDG), the Research Promotion Agency (FFG), the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and the European Union (5th, 6th and 7th Framework Programme) in a competitive effort.