Annamari Heikinheimo started as a tenure track professor of zoonotic antimicrobial resistance in the Helsinki One Health research network

The second tenure track professor of the HOH Helsinki One Health research network is Annamari Heikinheimo, a doctor of veterinary medicine. The position is a joint tenure of the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Food Authority, and the research topic has global relevance both to human and animal health.

Annamari Heikinheimo, DVM, has started her work in a joint position between the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki and the Finnish Food Authority in the beginning of August. Heikinheimo believes that the multidisciplinary approach of the HOH Helsinki One Health network opens up new possibilites for the research, enabling big scientific breakthroughs. New solutions are needed to solve the research area of Heikinheimo, the antimicrobial resistance.

What if the infection caused by bacteria—such as urinary tract infection, tonsillitis, or post-operational infection—could not be cured by medical drugs? According to Heikinheimo, this kind of antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest health threats globally. Over time, bacteria can develop an ability to resist drugs such as antibiotics that used in the medication of infectious diseases. Fortunately, the situation is tolerable in Finland and other Nordic countries compared to the rest of the world, but the unfavorable direction of development is present.

Bacteria can spread from one country to another together with animals, people and foodstuff. Globally, the antimicrobial resistance is affected by different levels of hygiene and usages of antimicrobial drugs in different countries, and the drugs ending up in the environment and nature.

Disease-causing microbes can find novel hosts from another species, so the animal diseases can evolve into human diseases and vice versa. This is called a zoonotic disease. The research of zoonotic antimicrobial resistance studies, for example, what kind of a role animals and foodstuff have on the onset and spreading of the antimicrobial resistance that threatens human health.

The research group of Annamari Heikinheimo examines the genetic structure of bacteria, the routes of spreading and development of the resistance using a new generation DNA sequencing technology. The research clarifies the possibilities of hygiene and composed usage of the antimicrobial drugs to stop the generation and spreading of the resistance through animals and foodstuffs.

In her forthcoming position of the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Food Authority, Heikinheimo combines scientific research to the work as an official.

- This gives a possibility to create new knowledge in preventing the development and spreading of drug-resistant bacteria in Finland. Finland can also enhance its international role in the prevention of the antimicrobial resistance, says Heikinheimo.

A curious mind got Heikinheimo to pursue a career as a researcher, because the world is full of topics to be examined. A new position as an assistant professor in the HOH Helsinki One Health network is a unique opportunity to conduct significant and timely work. The multidisciplinary network brings together experts from different areas, and enables solving large research questions that combine various scientific fields and concern people all over the world.

Contact information:

Annamari Heikinheimo, tel. +358442726508,

Director of the HOH Helsinki One Health network, Olli Peltoniemi,

Finnish Food Authority, Head of Microbiology Unit, Anna-Liisa Myllyniemi,