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Johannes Hübner
Christian Theilacker M.D.
Andrea Kropec M.D.
Tuerkan Sakinc Ph.D.
Elisabeth Grohmann Ph.D.
Stefan Geiss
Yinyin Bao
Diana Laverde Gomez
Melanie Broszat
Ann-Kristin Diederich
Friederike Rossmann
Marinella Lauriola
Dominik Anders
Martha Elwenspoek
Patrick Nowack
Meike Spiess
Martin Berthold
AG Grohmann


Enterococci are among the most important pathogens involved in
hospital-acquired infections. Because of their multiple inherent or
acquired antibiotic resistances these pathogens are associated with
considerable costs and excess mortality, especially in
immunocompromised patients. The major topics of our research projects
involve the examination of virulence factors, the pathogenesis of
enterococcal infections, and the development of alternative treatment
and preventive approaches of these infections.

Polysaccharides and glycoconjugates in enterococci

Only few carbohydrate surface structures have been characterized so
far in E. faecalis, and no information exists for E. faecium. Our
group has successfully isolated and structurally characterized
lipoteichoic acid, wall teichoic acid, glycolipids, and a novel
capsular polysaccharide present in E. faecalis. Ongoing studies try to
elucidate additional carbohydate structures as well as the genetic
basis of the production of these antigens.

Biofilm formation of enterococci

It has been appreciated in recent years that the default growth mode
of bacteria is the formation of biofilms on animate or inanimate
surfaces, while planktonic growth (such as in liquid media) does not
occur in most clinical situations. Biofilms play an important role in
important enterococcal infections, such as endocarditis, urinary tract
infections, or foreign body infections (such as central venous
catheter infections). Our studies have focused on the identification
of enterococcal genes involved in biofilm formation and on the
molecular mechanism involved in adherence of enterococci to plastic
surfaces and eukaryotic cells.

Vaccine development

Since enterococci are often resistant to virtually all clinically
available antibiotics, it is of utmost importance to study alternative
approaches to combat these infections. Capsular polysaccharides have
been used as vaccines for many bacterial species for more than a
century. The identification of a specific polysaccharide inE. faecalis
by our group led the way to the establishment of studies to assess the
protective efficacy of this and other antigens as vaccine candidates
to treat and/or prevent enterococcal infections. Meanwhile, we have
identified several additional surface molecules (e.g. lipoteichoic
acid, wall teichoic acid, several surface proteins) that may serve as
vaccine targets.



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