Cluster of Excellence – Controlling Microbes to Fight Infections

Starting Grant from the European Research Council for CMFI Junior Research Group Leader Christoph Ratzke

In his ERC project "BugDrug - Bugs as Drugs: Understanding Microbial Interaction Networks to Prevent and Treat Infections" Christoph Ratzke wants to investigate the interactions within microbial communities and their network structures. Such communities of innumerable microbes - also known as microbiota - occur for example in the healthy human intestine and help to digest food. However, certain microorganisms, often bacteria, can cause infections. Ratzke investigates how such pathogens could be repressed by the existing microbial network. He is granted 1.49 million euros from the ERC for this purpose.

The surfaces of the human body host colonies of microorganisms, known as microbiomes. Along with bacteria which have a positive effect on human health, microbiomes contain potentially life-threatening pathogens. In the past, broad-spectrum antibiotics have often been used to tackle them. Nowadays it is known that this not only promotes resistance to antibiotics – in many cases it also damages the microbiome as a whole. Researchers in the Control of Microorganisms to Fight Infection Cluster of Excellence aim to develop a new strategy to control infections.

Their goal is to find new, targeted agents which will have a positive effect on the microbiome. We know that useful bacteria help to keep down the harmful ones. In order to understand and exploit the underlying mechanisms, the Cluster of Excellence will bring together researchers from the fields of molecular, bioinformatics and clinical disciplines. The Cluster speakers are Professor Andreas Peschel and Professor Heike Brötz-Oesterhelt of the Interfaculty Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine at the University, along with Professor Ruth Ley, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology. The University Hospitals and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) are also partners in the Cluster.