"I was visiting the research laboratory of Dr Andrej Trampuz at Charité University Hospital in Berlin from 14th November to 16th December 2016. During the observership visit, I had the unique opportunity to acquire expertise in the use of isothermal microcalorimetry and to better understand the application of this technique to the study of bacterial biofilms and antibiofilm therapies.
I had the chance to employ isothermal microcalorimetry to perform a fine characterization of persister cells, a phenotypic variant of bacterial cells particularly abundant in biofilms and extremely tolerant to antibiotics. Such cells are increasingly recognized as responsible for the recalcitrance of most chronic infections to conventional antimicrobial treatments, thus representing a great challenge for therapy. Calorimetric measurements were very useful to analyze in real-time the metabolic profile of persister cells of Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa and to evaluate their susceptibility to antimicrobial agents.
During my stay, I also took part in weekly laboratory meetings, where the advances of research projects were presented and critically discussed. I had the opportunity to learn about advanced strategies for the management of biofilm-associated infections (especially implant-associated infections), such as lytic bacteriophages, bacteriophage enzymes, antimicrobial biomaterials and biodegradable injectable delivery systems. Participation to the discussions enabled me to face with different scientific and methodological approaches and to exchange and develop new ideas.
I was also given the opportunity to participate to the Prosthetic Joint Infection Workshop organized by Pro-Implant Foundation. The workshop focused on the modern approaches and guidelines for the diagnosis and proper treatment of implant-associated infections, with particular attention to the prevention and eradication of microbial biofilms. The interactive and interdisciplinary nature of the course was very helpful to get a complete picture of the problem. As a microbiologist, I could better understand the clinical difficulties of orthopaedics and infectious diseases specialists in infection management and the importance of multidisciplinary teams for translational research.
I would really like to thank Dr Andrej Trampuz and Dr Mariagrazia Di Luca for providing me with the opportunity to perform this observership, for sharing their knowledge on isothermal microcalorimetry and for their constant support and suggestions on experiments. Thank you to Anna Koliszak, Ann-Brit Klatt, Maria Eugenia Butini, Magdalena Czuban, Mercedes Gonzales Moreno and Tamta Tkhilaishvili for maintaining a pleasant working atmosphere and taking the time to help me during my stay. I definitely spent a great month in the laboratory and I always felt welcome and part of the team."
Lucia Grassi, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy