Department of Molecular Microbiology

Head of the Department

Suvorov Alexander Nikolaevich,
доктор медицинских наук, профессор, член-корреспондент РАН


Deputy Head of the Department

Tsapieva Anna Nikolaevna

Phone: (812) 234-05-42

Scientific secretary

Leonteva Galina Fedorovna,
кандидат биологических наук

Phone: (812) 234-05-42

The Department consists of:

The Department of Molecular Microbiology is studying pathogens for more than 120 years ago. The problems of infectious morbidity, pathogenesis and the nature of the pathogenicity of pathogens of current infections have been the most important areas of research from the day the Institute was founded. The first works were devoted to the prevention and treatment of rabies and syphilis. Over time, the range of studied diseases and pathogens has expanded significantly due to infections such as plague, cholera, glanders, typhus, various intestinal infections, diphtheria, scarlet fever and some others. The IEM is not accidentally recognized as the cradle of domestic Bacteriology and Epidemiology. The Department officially dates back to May 1972, when the laboratory of microorganism genetics was created under the direction of Artem Akopovich Totolyan. Who is now an academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, honorary doctor of the IEM. The laboratory was established on the basis of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, led by Academician V.I. Ioffe, an outstanding Soviet immunologist. The laboratory became an independent unit in 1977. It transformed later  into the Department of Molecular Microbiology. The Department has been headed by Doctor of Medicine A. N. Suvorov since 2012.

The main object of the Department’s microbiological and genetic studies was pathogenic streptococci, the causative agents of numerous and various human diseases, which, according to the WHO definition, constitute one of the leading causes of global morbidity and mortality. Group A streptococci (Streptococcus pyogenes) are known as pathogens of pharyngitis, streptoderma, scarlet fever, erysipelas, diseases that can be complicated by septic processes and damage to vital organs (heart, kidneys, brain). Group B streptococci (Streptococcus agalactiae) are known as causative agents of severe invasive diseases of the newborn, as well as septic processes in the elderly.

The main areas of the Department’s research in the 1970-80s were:

– factors of extrachromosomal heredity of streptococci;

– mechanisms of adhesion and invasion of streptococci;

  • pathogenicity factors of streptococcus and genetic metabolism;

Giant plasmids with inverted repeats of considerable length, which determine the multiple resistance of the microbe to antibiotics, as well as minicircular cryptic plasmids, were discovered and described for the first time  as a result of the studies in streptococci. The connection between the adhesive and invasive activity of SGA with their ability to synthesize M protein is proved – the main factor of pathogenicity of SGA. Virulent phages were studied lysing streptococci of groups A and C.  A  prevalence (96–98%) of lysogeny (including defective one) by moderate phages involved in genetic metabolism was shown. Vector systems were created for studying intraspecific and interspecific genetic exchange with the participation of SGA based on the plasmid structures. Significant cycles of work devoted to studying of individual pathogenicity factors of streptococci (streptokinase, SOF factor or serum opalescence factor) were carried out. The structure of the genetic region of the Mga-regulon in strains of the SOF15 type was described. The first physical and genetic maps of the SGA and the GBS were created in recent years. The genes of many streptococcal pathogenicity factors were cloned and studied, marker genes and the possibilities of genotyping of pathogenic streptococci by chromosomal genes and genes of mobile elements were identified, which contributed to the genome-wide sequencing of strains of streptococci and enterococci. The leading young research assistants of the Department (future Doctors of Sciences A. Suvorov and A. Dmitriev) were awarded the I prize of the Academy of Medical Sciences for successes in the field of genetics of pathogenic streptococci in 1998.

The Department worked on projects on the genome-wide sequencing of SGA, on the creation and usage of SOA-typing schemes for SGA, for the genotyping of SGA and collaborated with reputable streptococcal laboratories  in the USA (Universities of Oklahoma, Minnesota, South Dakota), Sweden (Institute of Medical Microbiology, University of Lund), Germany (Institute of Microbiology and Experimental Therapy, Jena), Czech Republic (Prague Institute of National Health), Slovakia (University of Veterinary Microbiology, Kosice) and China (Beijing Children’s Hospital). Over the past 10 years, the department has been actively involved in international cooperation with the University of South Dakota and the Medical Center of the University of Kansas (USA), the University of Veterinary Medicine (Slovakia) and the Beijing Children’s Hospital (PRC), Kiorin Medical University (Japan), and the Prague Institute of Physiology ( Czech Republic) and the University of Aberestwyth (UK). Laboratory Heads from the University of Oklahoma (Joseph Ferretti), University of Minnesota (P. Cleary) and Beijing Children’s Hospital (Yang Yonghong) were elected Honorary Doctors of the Institute experimental medicine, and a Chinese specialist is simultaneously a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences.

Since 1984, the Department has been the WHO National Center for the Study of Streptococci, and its head A. A. Totolyan had been the expert of the WHO Committee on Streptococci until 2004. He was awarded a personal diploma of the University of Oklahoma and was elected an honorary member of the microbiological societies of the Czech Republic and Slovakia for his success in the development of scientific cooperation. The Department pays special attention to the training of highly qualified young specialists, attracting students of the last courses of St. Petersburg universities. Some graduate students and young research assistants of the Department became winners of youth competitions for grants for the implementation of original scientific ideas and active participants in international conferences. Themes of all dissertation researches are highly relevant and are devoted to such issues as regulatory gene transcription systems, pathogenicity factors as candidates for recombinant peptide vaccines, structure and functions of ‘pathogenicity islands’, the role of bacteriophage genes in the pathogenicity of the microbe, pathogenesis of post-infectious complications, early diagnosis of nephropathy, the antistreptococcal effect of probiotic lactic acid bacteria, the search for new active probiotics, the study of the mechanisms of their action on the body and its microbiota. The Department has completed more than 35 candidate and 7 doctoral dissertation researches.

More than 25 scientific projects of the Department have been supported by grants from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, The Council for Grants of President of Russian Federation, as well as grants from various foundations over the past 10 years. The Department’s research is reflected in a large number of peer-reviewed publications, more than 40% of which are published in foreign journal periodicals, and the results are summarized in two monographs on streptococci of groups A and B, and in two methodological manuals. The Department’s work is protected by many copyright certificates and patents of the Russian Federation, including in the field of express diagnostics of streptococcus group affiliation, early diagnosis of diabetic kidney damage and vaccine strains, the creation of new probiotic and autoprobiotic lactic acid products.

The Department has modern equipment for experiments, such as microchip BioOdyssey analyzer, which allows full-genome analysis of gene transcription, electroporators, equipment complexes for two-dimensional electrophoresis and chromatography, a device for electrophoresis in a pulsating electric field, amplifiers with the possibility of real-time PCR, the latest devices from Bruker, ltraflextreme (mass spectrometer with matrix-activated laser desorption / ionization), MALDI, as well as Maxis 4G (liquid chromatograph is a high-resolution tandem mass spectrometer designed to analyze small amounts of complex mixtures of low and high molecular weight compounds). Currently, there are four laboratories in the Department. The Laboratory of Molecular Genetics of Pathogenic Microorganisms, the Laboratory of Functional Genomics and Proteomics of Microorganisms, and the laboratory of Biomedical Microecology are closely related to the object of the studying  (pathogenic streptococci), joint projects and the sharing of equipment. The fourth laboratory is the Laboratory of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Mass Spectrometry became one of the parts of the Department at the end of 2011.

Theses of the research assistants of the department over the past 5 years

Doctorate theses:

Candidate’s theses:

Academic titles received by the research assistants of the department over the past 5 years:

Patents obtained by the research assistants of the department over the past 5 years:

Technologies obtained by the research assistants of the department over the past 5 years:

The most significant publications over the past 5 years