At long last, as part of the BATTALION Project, our nationwide, longitudinal, microbial population study here in Norway has been published in Lancet Microbe. Funded by the Trond Mohn Foundation national program on antibiotic resistance, this study took advantage of NORM, Norway’s surveillance system for antimicrobial resistance, and collected 3397 E. coli bacteraemia isolates from 15 clinical microbiology labs from 2002-2017. Of those, 3254 isolates were successfully sequenced at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

Key findings of the study include that a multidrug resistant, high-risk clone, known as CC131, showed the largest clonal expansion over time, and it is the most important clone responsible for the increase in ESBL-prevalence and fluoroquinolone resistance in Norway. More interestingly, we found the early and sustained establishment of a predominantly antibiotic susceptible CC131 subclade in the population, suggesting that antibiotic resistance is not necessary for clonal success.

In addition, we're also excited to announce several newly published papers that have come out of the MicroPop group over the last few months! More info on the publications to come soon, but in the meantime check out the full texts below!





On April 29th, Pål had the pleasure of serving as an opponent in the PhD defence of Dr. Didrik Grevskott. Didrik's thesis was titled "Bivalve mollusks as tools for monitoring antibiotic resistance in the marine environment", and it explained some useful mechanisms to better understand antibiotic contamination. Resistance to antibiotics is becoming a growing, and urgent problem, especially due to the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture and aquaculture. Mollusks naturally harbor E. Coli, so by extracting and studying samples from mollusks, we are able to get an idea as to how much antibiotic resistance is emerging in wild, marine environments.

You can read more about Didrik's work and thesis here!


Congratulations to our PhD candidate Jónína Sæunn Guðmunsdóttir that entred the list of the 30 outstanding young scientists under 30 published by ESCMID:



On February 25th, Pål had the pleasure of serving as an opponent in the PhD defense of Dr. Petter Langlete from the University of Oslo. Petter's thesis dove into the isolation of extracellular vesicles in bacterial cells, specifically in regards to characterising and understanding their genetic cargo. Vesicles are small 'sacs' that are secreted from the membranes of living cells, and they play important roles in things like vaccine and drug development, cancer treatments, medical diagnostics, and much more!

This was a very interesting defense to be a part of, and you can check out and read more about Petter's thesis here! 



December, 5: Researcher João Pedro Alves Gama attended the National Consortium for Microbial Genomics Meeting at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo.

He gave a talk entitled "Bacterial barriers to plasmid acquisition".




November, 4-5: Researchers from the Microbial Pharmacology and Population Biology Group (MicroPop) participated to the 3rd Annual Meeting of The National Graduate School in Infection Biology and Antimicrobials (IBA) in Bergen.

Nicole L. Podnecky co-chaired the session about antibiotic resistance. In that session, Jónína Sæunn Guðmunsdóttir had the oral presentation titled "The cytotoxic drug methotrexate drives evolution of antibiotic resistance" while Christopher Fröhlich presented "Sub-Mic concentrations of ceftazidime drive evolution of the OXA-48 carbapenemase".

Emma Lu Øynes presented the poster "Evolutionary stability of collateral susceptibility networks in clinical Escherichia coli strains".
Elizabeth E.G. Fredheim presented the poster "Gentamicin collateral sensitivity of ciprofloxacin resistant Escherichia coli is abolished by the rapid development of gentamicin resistance".
João A Gama presented the poster "E. coli ST73 are not good plasmid hosts".
Nicole L. Podnecky co-chaired the session about antibiotic resistance. Foto: UiT
Presentation by Jónína Sæunn Guðmunsdóttir entitled "The cytotoxic drug methotrexate drives evolution of antibiotic resistance" Foto: UiT


Presentation by Christopher Fröhlich entitled "Sub-Mic concentrations of ceftazidime drive evolution of the OXA-48 carbapenemase" Foto: UiT


Emma Lu Øynes and her poster: "Evolutionary stability of collateral susceptibility networks in clinical Escherichia coli strains" Foto: UiT


João A Gama and his poster "E. coli ST73 are not good plasmid hosts". Foto: UiT


Poster by Elizabeth E.G. Fredheim: "Gentamicin collateral sensitivity of ciprofloxacin resistant Escherichia coli is abolished by the rapid development of gentamicin resistance" Foto: UiT



September, 27: professor Pål Jarle Johnsen has been invited as opponent in Linus Sandegren’s group at Uppsala University. Candidate: Dr. Fredrika Rajer.

Pål Jarle Johnsen examining Dr. Rajer


September, 4-6: Researcher Klaus Harms joined the 12th International Symposium on the Biology of Acinetobacter in Frankfurt, Germany. At the meeting he presented his latest research on how "DNA single-strands cause microindel mutations."


K. Harms at the 12th International Symposium on the Biology of Acinetobacter (Frankfurt 2019). Foto: Acinetobacter 2019

August, 22: professor Pål Jarle Johnsen has been invited as opponent in Morten Sommer’s group at the Technical University of Denmark-DTU. Candidate: Dr. Leonie Jahn. 

Defence committee in Copenhagen. From the left: Pål Jarle Johnsen, Hanne Ingmer, Tilmann Weber and candidate Leaonie Jahn. 


August, 13-16: researcher Julia Maria Kloos participated to the 5th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health that was held in Zürich (CH). She presented a poster entitled "Evolution towards reduced burden of clinical antibiotic resistance plasmids".


Julia Maria Kloos at ISEMPH, Zürich, August 13-16, 2019. Foto: UiT



July, 21-25: Researcher João Pedro Alves Gama participated at SMBE conference in Manchester and presented the poster "E. coli ST73: not good plasmid hosts".

In the same days, he was invited to give a talk entitled "Why E. coli ST73 are not good plasmid hosts" at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus.


João Pedro Alves Gama Foto: UiT



João Pedro Alves Gama Foto: UiT



May, 26-30: Researchers Klaus Harms and João Pedro Alves Gama participated at BAGECO15, the 15th Symposyum on Bacterial Genetics and Ecology, in Lisbon/Portugal presenting the following posters: "Improved bacterial hospitality to plasmids" and "Horizontal spread of transposons - transposition during natural transformation". João Pedro Alves Gama gave also a talk entitled "Bacterial warfare - the arsenal goes viral".

Additionally, they were both invited speakers at Center for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (CE3C), Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon (FCUL).

João Pedro Alves Gama Foto: UiT


Klaus Harms Foto: UiT
Klaus Harms, talk "How bacteria feed and breed on fragmented, random environmental DNA" Foto: CE3C research
João Pedro Alves Gama, talk "Why some E. coli strains are not good plasmid hosts" Foto: CE3C research



João Gama, talk "Bacterial warfare – the arsenal goes viral" Foto: UiT



May, 8-10: the first meeting organized by iResist Consortium took place on the Island of Sommarøy, just outside Tromsø. Lecturer and researchers from Norway and Europe shared their experiences and knowledge on AMR in order to work together on new projects.



Participants to the iResist meeting in Sommarøy (8-10 May 2019) Foto: Pål J. Johnsen


From the left: Prof. Kaare M Nielsen (OsloMet), Dr. Czaba Pal, (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Szeged), Dr. Álvaro San Millan (University Hospital Ramón y Cajal, Madrid), Dr. Nina van Sorge (UMC Utrecht), Prof. Fredrik Almqvist, Umeå University, Prof. Mona Johannessen (UiT), Dr. Klaus Harms (UiT), Dr. Alan McNally (University of Birmingham), Prof. Gunnar S. Simonsen (UNN-UiT), Dr. Ursula Theuretzbacher (CEFAIA, Vienna), Prof. Ole Andreas Økstad (UiO), Dr. Elizabeth G.Aarag Fredheim (UiT), Prof. Kristin Hegstad (UiT), Ørjan Samuelsen (UNN-UiT), Dr. Madelaine Norström (Norwegian Veterinary Institute), Prof. Dr. Jan Maarten van Dijl (University of Groningen), MD PhD. Iren Høyland Löhr (SUS), Dr. Med. Vet. Marianne Sunde (Norwegian Veterinary Institute), Prof. Dzung B. Diep (NMBU), Prof. Pål J. Johnsen (UiT), Prof. Arnfinn Sundsfjord (UNN-UiT).




PhD student Christopher Fröhlich and medical research student Anna Sollied Møller went to the ECCMID conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on April 13-16, and were selected to present the following posters: "Sub-inhibitory concentrations of ceftazidime drive evolution of the OXA-48 carbapenemase" and "Evolutionary stability of collateral effects in ciprofloxacin resistant clinical Escherichia coli strains".


C. Frölich Foto: UiT
Anna S. Møller Foto: UiT





Joint Grant assigned from Bergens Research Foundation targeting AMR-Research. This project includes Jukka Corander (UiO), Ørjan Samuelsen and collaborators in the US and UK. 

Click here for more information.

Prof. Jukka Corander (UiO), Prof. Ørjan Samuelsen (UNN, UiT) and Prof. Pål J. Johnsen (UiT)





Nov 26-30: Prof. Pål J. Johnsen and Prof. Ørjan Samuelsen were invited to give key- note lectures at a joint course between IBA and the Swedish National Doctoral Programme in Infections and Antibiotics (NDPIA) held in Gothenburg, Sweden. 


NDPIA Gothenburg, Nov2018. Foto: NDPIA


Nov 1st: MicroPop and IFA celebrate the one and only Klaus Harms' 50th birthday



Group picture Foto: UiT


On the 29 and 30 October, MicroPop group members participated in the annual meeting with IBA – The National Graduate School in Infection Biology and Antimicrobials. Pål and João held presentations during the meeting.



Prof. Pål J. Johnsen at his presentation during IBA meeting in Tromsø, 2018. Foto: UiT




Chris Marx from University of Idaho visited MicroPop. Chris gave and excellent talk at the Faculty and we had good project discussions.



September 11: MicroPop in national media! Pål and some of his lab members were on the news with promising results as published in the paper published last month. Watch it on NRK's internet TV here.


A piece was also written about it at NRK's websites.


(All in Norwegian).



Paper accepted in Nature Communications! Nicole as first author! Click here to access the paper.



Podnecky NL, Fredheim EG, Kloos J, Sørum V, Primicerio R, Roberts AP, Rozen DE, Samuelsen Ø, Johnsen PJ. Conserved collateral antibiotic susceptibility networks in diverse clinical strains of Escherichia coli. Nature communications. 2018 Sep 10;9(1):3673.



The paper was celebrated with champagne!



PhD student Julia Kloos and postdoc João Gama went to the Plasmid Biology conference in Seattle on August 5-10. João was selected to give an oral presentation with the title: "Plasmid interactions: shaping conjugative transfer dynamics" (August 7). Julia had a poster presentation "Klebsiella pneumoniae MDR-encoding plasmids in clinical isolates of uropathogenic Escherichia coli: plasmid-host co-evolution and its effect on fitness cost of plasmid-mediated resistance" (August 6).



João Gama during his presentation.




Julia Kloos and her poster.



May 31st: Pål invited to give a talk at the Wenner-Gren Symposium in Stockholm: Antibiotic resistance: Evolutionary concepts versus clinical realities. May 31-June 2.



Pål with Fernando Baquero, Bruce Levin and Danny Rozen.


May 28-29: Visitors giving excellent presentations at our PhD course MBI-8006: «Molecular and clinical aspects of Infection, Inflammation and Immunity: Ellie Harrisson, Guido Werner, Jukka Corander, John Lees, and Gerry Tonkin-Hill.


The lecturers of the course went for a dinner at Mathallen in Tromsø.


April 21-24: The MicroPop group went to Madrid for the 28th ECCMID conference. Christopher Fröhlich, a PhD student associated with MicroPop, was selected to give an oral presentation.


The group in Madrid.




Christopher Fröhlich in action.



Ørjan Samuelsen chaired one of the sessions.



April 3-4:

In the beginning of April, Pål met with his consortium partners for the biofilm project, funded by the Olav Thon Foundation, in Leiden, the Netherlands to discuss the future of the project. Group members Pål and Nicole also met with the partners in the JPI-AMR consortium, also in Leiden.



Meeting in Leiden.



On March 10, Prof. Pål J. Johnsen attended the ceremony where he received the research award from Olav Thon and his research foundation in Oslo.





Pål giving a talk about the project.



Thon Foundation grant

Prof. Pål J. Johnsen is partner in the new research project "Development of Antibiotic Resistance in Bacterial Biofilms" that was awarded NOK 10 million from the Olav Thon Foundation. The grant aims to incentivise increased Nordic collaboration within medical research. It is led by Dan I. Andersson at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, and partnered by Prof. Hanne Ingmer, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.




Nicole Podnecky's paper "Conserved collateral susceptibility networks in diverse clinical strains of Escherichia coli." was published online at Biorxiv. The full author list is: Nicole L PodneckyElizabeth GA FredheimJulia KloosVidar SorumRaul PrimicerioAdam P RobertsDaniel E RozenOrjan SamuelsenPal J Johnsen. Access it here.




NOK 2 million was granted to the iResist consortium - a network of eight partners headed by Prof Pål J. Johnsen. This grant will support the network in increased grant application activity and more competitive applications for Norwegian health researchers directed towards EU funds, such as Horizon 2020, all within research on infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance in a one health perspective.



Klaus Harms got a grant from the Norwegian Research Council worth NOK 7.5 million for his project "Molecular and Evolutionary Characterization of Short-Patch Double Illegitimate Recombination, A Recently Discovered Mutation Mechanism". Congratulations!!


PhD course in Antimicrobial Resistance was held in Tromsø. Profs Pål J. Johnsen and Ørjan Samuelsen gave several lectures, as well as our collaborative partner from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, Prof. Daniel Rozen. The group members were well represented among the attendees!



Lab outing with beer tasting at the local brewery Bryggeri 13, followed by a guided city walk and dinner at a restaurant.


In relation to the National Research Days, our lab members Elizabeth, Julia and Vidar joined the Infection Biology Research Group's activities on the research day for kids. They won an award for best activity.



Prof. Pål J. Johnsen won the Faculty of Health Sciences' Research Prize for 2017. His efforts in running a well-functioning and successful research group and establishing locally, nationally and internationally rooted research networks, as well as recruiting young, successful group leaders to the department, were highlighted factors when he was awarded the prize.



AMR video

Professors Pål J. Johnsen and Ørjan Samuelsen starred in a popular scientific short video about antimicriobial resistance. Watch it here.


ECCMID conference in Vienna, Austria

We participated in the ECCMID conferance in Vienna, Austria. We presented the poster "Factors affecting the sign, magnitude, and generality of collateral susceptibility networks in clinical Escherichia coli strains".



Nicole, Julia, Ørjan, Elizabeth and Pål in front of the poster presented at ECCMID.




Paper accepted in BMC Microbiology!! 

The paper is entitled "Costs and benefits of natural transformation in Acinetobacter baylyi" and authored by

Nils Hülter; Vidar Sørum; Kristina Borch-Pedersen; Mikkel Meyn Liljegren; Ane Live Gunnes Utnes; Raul Primicerio; Klaus Harms; Pål Jarle Johnsen
Congrats to previous and present lab members!


Pål was invited as a chair at the 27th ECCMID 2017

ECCMID is to be held 22 - 25 April 2017 in Vienna, Austria. ECCMID continues to be one of the largest, most comprehensive and most influential congresses in the infection field.

Plasmid ecology and persistence
23 Apr 2017, 11:30 - 12:30, Hall C

Teresa Coque, Madrid, Spain
Pål Jarle Johnsen, Tromsø, Norway

Plasmid evolution and ecology
Eva Top, Moscow, ID, United States

How plasmids persist
Alvaro San Millan, Oxford, United Kingdom





Nov. 23rd: Paper accepted in PNAS!!

The paper is entitled "Substitutions of short heterologous DNA segments of intragenomic or extragenomic origins produce clustered genomic polymorphisms", and was accepted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal. Congrats to first author Klaus Harms, and former group members Asbjørn Lunnan, Nils Hülter and Kaare M. Nielsen for excellent contributions. The paper is the result of collaborations between us in Tromsø and researchers from Boston and Copenhagen.


Nov. 18: EU-Grant to MicroPop:


We are exited about coordinating a JPI-EC-AMR grant where UiT get 2 Work Packages:


Pål J. Johnsen: MicroPop/IFA coordinator and WP-leader

Pia Abel zur Wiesch: Computational Pharmacology/IFA WP-leader


Check out: 

Joint Programming Initative on Antimicrobial Resistance (JPIAMR)'s Homepages


Norwegian Research Council's homepage.


June: Nicole Podnecky attended the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Microbe meeting in Boston and presented a poster.


April: We attended the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Amsterdam with three posters presented by Nicole Podnecky, Elizabeth A. Fredheim, Julia Kloos, Maria C. Di Luca, and Vidar Sørum.


Papers published:


  1. McLeman A, Sierocinski P, Hesse E, Buckling A, Perron G, Hülter N, Johnsen PJ, Vos M. No effect of natural transformation on the evolution of resistance to bacteriophages in the Acinetobacter baylyi model system. Sci Rep. 2016 Nov 21;6:37144. doi: 10.1038/srep37144.

  2. Ambur OH., Engelstädter J., Johnsen PJ., Miller EL., Rozen DE. Steady at the wheel: conservative sex and the benefits of natural transformation. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2016 Oct 19;371(1706). pii: 20150528.

  3. Di Luca MC., Sørum V., Starikova I., Klos J., Hülter N., Naseer U., Johnsen PJ., Samuelsen Ø. Low biological cost of carbapenemase producing plasmids following transfer from Klebsiella pneumonia to Escherichia coli. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2016 Sep 2. pii: dkw350
  4. Borruso L, Harms K, Johnsen PJ, Nielsen KM, Brusetti L. Distribution of class-1 integrons in a highly impacted catchment. Sci Total Environ. 2016 Oct 1;566-567:1588-94. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.06.054

  5. Engelstädter J., Harms K., Johnsen PJ. The evolutionary dynamics of integrons in changing environments ISME J, 2016, Jun;10(6):1296-307





Nov. 5: New paper accepted in The ISME Journal, with collaborator Jan Engelstädter from the University of Queensland! In this paper, we theoretically explore the evolution and maintenance of integrons – the fascinating gene capture and re-shuffling devices found in many bacteria.

Oct. 10:
 Pia Schulz Zur Wiesch was awarded Nordic Cluster of Molecular Medicine (NCMM) Young Investigator – Congratulations!!