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Microbiology

A sharper view of the hidden micro-world

Micro-organisms are so tiny that they can only be seen through a microscope. Despite their invisibility to the naked eye, they are powerful members of the biological world and have the potential to pack a lot of punch. They have their good side (adding flavour, helping in the fermentation process, etc.) but can turn bad due to changes in environmental conditions.

Our surroundings are teeming with legions of them, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. Before that causes too much alarm, most of these invisible creatures are harmless and many are actually good for us.

However, some micro-organisms are bad for our health. They can find their way into our bodies and cause us serious harm. We can catch these harmful micro-organisms through contact with other people or contaminated animals, and from our food. Retailers should use tools that allow them to control food cost effectively.

Protecting the food chain

Owing to the potential harm micro-organisms can cause and the cross-border nature of such threats, the European Union funds a broad spectrum of research in the field of microbiology.

Through EU-funded programmes, our understanding of the microbiological processes at work is growing, as is our ability to detect and protect against harmful infections.

Detection is the best medicine

Pathogens are viruses, bacteria or any other micro-organisms that cause disease. Owing to their potential harmfulness, it is critical that they are detected and removed as swiftly as possible from our food. Current testing methods tend to focus more on the final product rather than the entire food chain. With 25 research partners in 16 countries, PathogenCombat is working to develop new molecular-based methods to detect, predict and characterise pathogens from fork to farm.

www.pathogencombat.com

Crossing the discipline barrier

Zoonoses are diseases which cross the species barrier from animals to humans. They include salmonella, rabies, and some forms of influenza. These diseases can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal or by eating contaminated food. This makes controlling zoonoses outbreaks – which can spread rapidly – critical. However, such efforts are hampered by disciplinary divisions between human and animal doctors. Med-Vet-Net is connecting doctors and vets across Europe to help better understand and control these serious diseases.

www.medvetnet.org

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