Judith Behnsen PhDAssistant Professor Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany, 2010
Our bodies are made out of trillions of cells – and harbor the same number of microbes. These microbes have numerous functions, from providing us with nutrients and shaping our immune system to preventing pathogens from colonizing.
We study bacteria and fungi that live in the gut and their role during infection with the human pathogen Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. This bacterium infects 1.5 million people each year. Infection results in self-limiting inflammatory diarrhea in healthy people, but can lead to bacteremia and death in people with a compromised immune system.
We use in vitro models and small animal models to study how bacteria and fungi interact with each other, Salmonella, and the host. Next to conventionally raised animals we use animals that are devoid of any bacteria and fungi (germ-free). These animals can be selectively colonized with bacteria and fungi of interest. This allows us to understand relationships of these microbes and their interactions with the host in a less complex system.