Applied Hygiene: Effective against outbreak strains

Applied Hygiene: Effective against outbreak strains

Initiated by the Life Science Nord Cluster, the HIHeal consortium brings together infectious disease experts from across the North. One outcome with high impact for applied hygiene is an evaluation of disinfectants with regard to antibiotic-resistant outbreak strains isolated in the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE).

Antibiotic-resistant germs are a growing threat

The steady rise of bacterial strains that are resistant to antibiotics poses a significant threat to humanity. Since these microbes have shown their ability to adapt to the clinical environment, one obvious question is: Are disinfectants used in routine hygienic measures still working against these bugs? “We regularly receive customer enquiries as to whether our disinfectants are also effective in the presence of MRSA or other antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” says Johannes Lenz, Manager of the Microbiology and Hygiene Department at chemicals manufacturer Chemische Fabrik Dr. Weigert. Disinfectants kill bacteria through a variety of mechanisms that are completely different to antibiotic agents. “So we can always confirm efficacy of our products. However, we want to provide users with scientific proof,” Lenz points out.

Clinically relevant bacterial strains

“Another question is: are the European reference bacterial strains we use for efficacy testing in the lab still reflecting what’s going on in the real world?,” says Florian Brill, Owner and Managing Director at Dr. Brill + Partner Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology, an independent testing laboratory based in Hamburg. The two pressing questions on efficacy were addressed and answered by a successful joint project within the Hygiene, Infection & Health (HIHeal) network coordinated by the Life Science Nord cluster.

“The beauty of this project is that we used clinically relevant strains for the efficacy testing,” says Brill. Medical microbiologist Johannes Knobloch’s team at University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) provided antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains that caused clinical outbreaks within the last couple of years at the UKE and other German hospitals from their collection. This club of notorious hospital germs consisted of strains from species such as

  • Staphylococcus aureus,
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa and
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae.
Dr Florian Brill, owner and Managing Director of Dr Brill + Partner, tested the resistance of new microbes in a collaborative project. © Florian Brill
Dr Florian Brill, owner and Managing Director of Dr Brill + Partner, tested the resistance of new microbes in a collaborative project. © Florian Brill

Disinfectants doing their job

In the study the effectiveness of four surface disinfectants, two agents from disinfection manufacturer Bode Chemie and two agents from Dr Weigert were tested in the companies’ own labs and the lab of Dr. Brill + Partner. The results were reassuring: All four surface disinfectant agents perfectly did their job and worked effectively. The researchers also did not observe any shift in the effective concentration of disinfectants. “Another conclusion is that the reference strains from European norms still represent the current clinical antibiotic resistant bacterial community,” says Brill. He is convinced that the validation and generation of solid data can support and update international databases of disinfectants and several lists of disinfectants in Germany.

The project team is now writing up the results and is to publish the paper in a scientific journal. Just how interesting the data are for the scientific community became clear at the Conference of Applied Hygiene, Microbiology and Virology (CAHMV) at the end of November 2022 in Hamburg. “It was obviously the conference talk with the most questions and we had a lively debate,” remembers Brill. His company is the main organizer of the annual conference.

One possible next step in the project would be including more disinfectants in the testing. “One could also imagine other testing scenarios – for example on surfaces instead of in suspension,” Brill explains. He hopes to have more scientific groups and partners join the quest.

How HIHeal strengthens collaboration

According to Brill, the project has also exemplified the strengths and opportunities of the HIHeal network that was established back in 2016. “By connecting different stakeholders from private industry, clinics and academia, we are able to set up joint projects which would otherwise not have been started,” states Brill. His company in particular acted as a platform and intermediary between the more scientifically oriented experts in the hospitals and universities on the one hand and the private companies on the other. “Many of the industrial players are also competitors in certain areas. Normally they would not intend on joining such a project. However, under the umbrella of HIHeal, it’s easier to collaborate and bring relevant experts together,” he says.

In this way, the network actively helps to establish sustainable connections across the infectious disease and infection prevention ecosystem in the North. The disinfectants efficacy testing project also presented some confidentiality issues that had to be solved. “Everybody was open to solving these challenges because we were all interested in the outcome and in the science behind it,” explains Brill. The collaborative spirit was also what Johannes Lenz from Dr. Weigert particularly liked about this HIHeal project: “The cooperation between disinfectant manufacturers, testing laboratories and users is a very good example of how practical solutions can be developed hand in hand.”

Networking perspectives

Juliane Worm, Director Innovation & Technologies at Life Science Nord, who has been responsible for HIHeal until end of 2022, is not only happy with the outcome of the respective project, but also thrilled with the fruitful networking that goes on. “The HIHeal activities will receive one more year of funding from the Hamburg Department of Economics, Transport and Innovation (BWI) in 2023,” Worm says. “This is great news for the many areas dealt with by this project.”

Text: Philipp Graf

Beitragsbild: © Florian Brill


Further posts

HIV gene-editing therapy heads to the clinic

Business Nord|Innovation|Science & Translation HIV gene-editing therapy heads to the clinic

Provirex’ innovative genome editing therapy enables the elimination of persistent viral genomes from infected cells. The start-up is building a therapy hub in the future Science City Hamburg Bahrenfeld.

Stem cell medicine in the North: The report

Science & Translation Stem cell medicine in the North: The report

When the experts meet in Hamburg in July for the most important global congress in stem cell research – the ISSCR Annual Meeting – many regional players from the Life Science Nord cluster will also be there. A guide to the region's major players in research and industry in the stem cell field.

AI and crystals: “We provide the blueprint for innovative drug design”

Portrait AI and crystals: “We provide the blueprint for innovative drug design”

The start-up CrystalsFirst specializes in structural biological analyses of protein crystals for drug development. The team has been based at DESY in Hamburg-Bahrenfeld since 2022. In this interview, founder and CEO Serghei Glinca talks about the technology and the structural biology ecosystem in the North of Germany.