Research group leader Professor Hannu Korkeala
Deputy research group leader University Lecturer Riikka Keto-Timonen

Researchers:
ELL Mariella Aalto-Araneda
Dr. Xiaobing Jiang
M. Sci. Xiaojie Jiang
ELL Päivi Lahti
ELL Mirjami Mattila
ELL Anna Pöntinen
ELL Henna Söderholm
Dr. Yu Tao

The group focuses on the molecular biological diagnostics, biodiversity, epidemiology and prevention, as well as virulence mechanisms of psychotrophic and/or spore-forming pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes, Yersinia enterocolitica, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, Clostridium botulinum and Clostridium perfringens.

The research programme is investigating the reservoirs of these pathogens and those food items that have caused food poisoning. The perspective of molecular epidemiology is applied to the study of food poisoning outbreaks and the identification of contamination routes throughout the entire food chain. Various typing methods, such as pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), multilocus sequence typing (MLST), multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat (MLV) analysis, as well as whole genome sequencing, are utilised in investigating the genetic diversity of these pathogens.

Methods of food production have been developed in order to improve food safety. The group works in cooperation with the research groups led by Professor Lindström and Professor Fredriksson-Ahomaa and belonged, from 2008 to 2013, to the Centre of Excellence in Microbial Food Safety Research funded by the Academy of Finland.

Cold storage of food aims to increase its shelf life. The cold chain is a central factor when trying to improve the safety and shelf life of food. The L. monocytogenes, Y. enterocolitica, Y. pseudotuberculosis and C. botulinum (group I) pathogens have the ability to multiply in food during cold storage, which gives these bacteria an edge due to the fact that cold promotes their growth. These bacteria are a significant food safety risk related to modern food production and logistics. The research project investigates the bacterial genes responsible for cold tolerance and their functions. Additionally, the genetic background of other stress responses in the same bacteria is under investigation. The bacterial stress response project utilises methods such as RNA sequencing, DNA microarrays, mutation technology and a quantitative PCR method.