Topi Salmi Prize 2016

Marja-Liisa Hänninen’s scientific research work has focused on one of the most significant fields of veterinary medicine: the epidemiology, genetics and diagnostics of zoonotic bacteria. She has also conducted extensive research into the drug resistance of microbes.

Hänninen’s research has dealt with the epidemiology of campylobacters on a broad scale and particularly with the significance of different sources of infection. Hänninen’s research group has developed tools by means of which genomics can be used to study epidemics. Campylobacters are the most common cause of bacterial gastrointestinal infections in humans in developed societies. The research has created opportunities for efficient targeting of preventive measures.

Hänninen has also carried out extensive research into drug resistance, which is a growing global problem. The wide-scale use of fluoroquinolones, for example, in animal production has led to an increase in the resistance. Hänninen served as a specialist, when FDA, the U.S. authority responsible for the approval of animal drugs, proposed that the marketing authorisation of enrofloxacin used for the treatment of poultry should not be extended. The award winner also served as a specialist in the WHO/ FAO working group that prepared the first risk assessment report on the role of chickens in campylobacter infections.

Human diseases caused by protozoans, such as giardia and cryptosporidium, are also often zoonotic. Hänninen’s research group launched a study in Finland to look into the occurrence of these organisms in water and other environments. Helicobacters in animals have not been studied in many laboratories in the world because they are difficult to culture. With her research group, Hänninen has provided new information on the classification of helicobacters in animals and their potential zoonoticity and role in animal and human infections.