Departament de Microbiologia 


MICROBIOLOGY OF
 WATER RELATED TO
 THE HEALTH (MARS)


Francisco Lucena
Anicet R. Blanch
Cristina Garcia
Joan Jofre
Maite Muniesa


ANICET R. BLANCH


contact
bio
research
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RESEARCH PROJECTS



1) Microbial Source Tracking (MST)

The determination of fecal pollution sources in surface waters is necessary to estimate the differential associate health risks attending to human or animal origins. The identification of fecal pollution sources allow to take decisions and measures to correct it and to resolve legal problems resulting from this contamination. Common microbial indicators, such as E. coli or enterococci, do not provide the information necessary to detect the source of fecal pollution. In the last years, different chemical or microbiological methods have been proposed for determining the origin of fecal pollution in water (Microbial Source Tracking.) The research carried out by our group is providing new proposals for microbial indicators and the development of methodological tools based on selective culture systems or in molecular techniques. In addition, we have made and are leading into new approaches combining the new MST indicators that are sources-specific of fecal pollution with traditional indicators that only inform us about the total concentration of this pollution. We are evaluating the use of inductive machine learning systems to select the most appropriate combinations of indicators, and the, to develop predictive models. We are also carrying on studies of the prevalence and the persistence in the environment of these MST indicators, as well as their resistance to different water treatments. Among the most important indicators that have been developed and proposed by our group, you can find some Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides species specifically associated with a host (fecal origin) and Bacteroides bacteriophages host-specific (human or animal species).


Staff
Dr. Anicet R. Blanch
Dr. Maite Muniesa Pérez
Dr. Joan Jofre Torroella
Dr. Francisco Lucena
Dr. Cristina García Aljaro


Postdocs
Dr. Elisenda Ballesté Pau


Predocs
Laura Sala Comorera


Technicians
Aiora Aregita
Raquel Casas




2) Diversity of microbial populations in aquatic environments

The structure and the composition of microbial populations present in different aquatic environments allows us to understand ecological and health-related issues in waters. It should be noted that facilitates a better understanding of microbial transmission fecal-oral in the environment, and to give answers and better tools to manage water resources, with the aim of improving the prevention of transmission of these diseases. We also facilitate the identification of the indigenous microbiota (autochthonous) in water bodies from other allochthonous populations (pathogenic or not) which could modify the characteristics and quality of water resources. Studies on diversity and similarity of a wide range of bacterial populations are underway (fecal coliforms, enterococci, aerobic heterotrophic bacteria, bifidobacteria, etc..) in different water matrices (surface treatment, bottled sources, reclaimed Etc...).


Staff
Dr. Anicet R. Blanch
Dr. F. Lucena Gutiérrez
Dr. Cristina García Aljaro


Postdocs
Dr. Elisenda Ballesté Pau


Predocs
Laura Sala Comorera




3) Microbial indicators and pathogens in wastewater and reclaimed, and sewage sludge

The constant evolution of genomic methods and better understanding of commensal microorganisms in the digestive tract and the proposal of new microbial indicators in water have invited to improve the detection and enumeration methodologies , and to validate those new approaches in order to be used in studies of microbial quality of water. We have been developed and adapted various qualitative and quantitative methodologies based on the application of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect pathogens (enteroviruses, E. coli O157, Salmonella, Cryptosporidium) and new indicators (Bifidobacterium, Bacteroides) in samples with complex matrices (water, biosolids, soil and sewage sludge). These techniques should allow us to detect these indicators and pathogens in a very low number of units. There are also different types of metagenomic approaches (for instance, DGGE and subsequent sequencing or pyrosequencing) for identification and detection of some bacteria (Vibrio, Bifidobacterium, Bacteroides) which could be complex or difficult to culture, and a preliminary analysis with those molecular methods could assess the microbial diversity present in different types of waters beyond the data provided by traditional systems based mainly on the cultivation of microorganisms.

The detection of microorganisms in real time is another objective of the research within this field. It also pursues to improve real-time detection methods for indicators such as somatic coliphages, which have been proposed as tools for water management based on the principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points). We are carrying out studies on the potential usefulness of alternative indicators to the current (coliphages, for instance) and the use of genomic techniques to detect pathogens in the validation and monitoring of wastewater treatments to obtain reclaimed water. There is a special interest in evaluating the performance of advanced treatment technologies (UV, micro and ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis) not only in the treatment of wastewater and reclaimed water, but also in the processes of sludge hygienisation plants for subsequent use or controlled disposal. Several member of the research group participate in research projects of normalization and standardization working groups on microbial methods for such applications in both national (AENOR) and international (CEN, ISO) standardization bodies.


Staff
Dr. Anicet R. Blanch
Dr. Joan Jofre Torroella
Dr. Francisco Lucena Gutiérrez


Predocs
Laura Sala Comorera
Julia Martín Díaz


Technicians
Aiora Aregita
Raquel Casas




4) Mechanisms of regulation by quorum sensing in Vibrio spp

The research group is working on assessing the importance of "quorum sensing" (QS) autoinductors related to the selective recognition of commensal bacteria of hosts. Currently, studies are carried out with strains of Vibrio spp. and specifically V. schopthalmi. We have identified the main mechanisms of QS in this species and we are characterizing phenotypically the regulated functions as well as the description of the genetic mechanisms of regulation. It considers the potential role of these mechanisms presents V. scophthalmi in the specific intestinal colonization by its usual host (Scophthalmus maximus). New methods (microtest and biosensors) for these QS autoinducers are being studied as new tools for their detection.


Staff
Dr. Anicet R. Blanch
Dr. Cristina García Aljaro




5) Probiotics and prebiotics in animal nutrition

Surveys of new environmental strains for their possible use as probiotics in animal diets are conducted. The identification and phenotypic and genotypic characterizations of those bacterial strains (Lactobacillus, Bacillus, Bifidobacterium, Vibrio) is being performed. We are developing specific culture media for growing on plate and broths for their production in bioreactors. We are also measuring activities of the fermented products for its application as prebiotics in animal feed formulations.


Staff
Dr. Anicet R. Blanch
Dr. Cristina García-Aljaro
Dr. Javier Méndez


Predocs
Laura Sala Comorera