Increasing the quality and reliability of the GF and GX animal models produced by the different teams through harmonization of the procedures of husbandry of GF and GX rodents. The composition, origin and quality control of raw materials such as food, bedding and water will be normalized. In order to improve the reliability and reproducibility of these models, and also to facilitate their exchange, it will also be important to harmonize the genetic management of the GF and GX colonies, in particular for the lines that are common to different centres. This will lead to the publication of updated recommendations regarding husbandry and genetic management of GF and GX rodent colonies.

Increasing and harmonizing the microbiological quality control of the models. The protocols that are used by each team will be listed, and the advantages and caveats of each discussed, in order to establish consensual procedures and develop new technologies (e.g. development and validation of molecular tests, detection of specific viruses). The result of this part of the project will also lead to the publication of updated recommendations regarding microbiological quality controls of GF rodent colonies.

Developing new tools to improve and facilitate the exchanges of animal resources between the different partners of the program, as well as with other European research centres that wish to have access to GF and GX models. This will require the development of a website to keep an updated inventory of the available GF and GX lines in Europe. Shipping devices will be normalized to facilitate the exchanges between breeding and research centres and to meet the IATA standards for flight shipping of rodents.

Developing tools for the comparison and normalization of microbiotas. Diversity in the composition of the "specific pathogen free, SPF" rodent microbiota is inducing a level of noise in the experimental readouts that can preclude comparison of data between research centres. We will explore different approaches to inform on the status of the microbiota, as well as to establish a set of normalized microbiotas that can be used as standards.

Circulating and updating information through creation and maintenance of a website.
In order to foster a long-lived cooperation between the research infrastructures and scientific communities, the consortium:

  • created working groups in charge of addressing specific issues (e.g. husbandry, shipping devices, etc.),
  • fosters scientific collaborations within and beyond the network that flourish on the advancement of the consortium,
  • will organize training courses to develop and harmonize gnotobiology practices,
  • developped a website for information sharing and coordination,
  • will hold yearly plenary meetings to discuss achievements, roadblocks, future goals,
  • will expand the core community through information at meetings and seminars.

Importantly, many founding members of the European Consortium for Gnotobiology are actively involved in research to understand the impact of microbiota on the physiology and immunology of the host, in particular of the mouse model. This research is already based on active collaboration between several members of the consortium, and such collaborations will be re-enforced by the activity of the consortium. This research will directly impact on the quality and diversity of the services of the consortium, as increased knowledge on the crosstalk between microbiota and host will guide choices on animal models, microbiological quality controls, and tools for animal exchanges, training and normalization of microbiotas.