skip to content



Sonja Blasche studied Biology in Hamburg and Freiburg (Germany). During her PhD at the German Cancer Research Center (Heidelberg) and the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville (Maryland), Sonja assessed the pathogen-host interactions of phage lambda - E. coli and enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) - human and identified the EHEC effector NleF as a potent inhibitor of human caspases. In 2014 Sonja got a fellowship that allowed her to spend 6 months in the lab of Prof. Liping Zhao at the Jiao Tong University (Shanghai, China), where she worked with the gut microbiota of obese children. Thereafter she joined the group of Prof. Kiran Patil at EMBL in Heidelberg to examine species interactions and cross feeding in microbial communities using milk kefir as a community model system and to investigate the role of gut bacteria in modulating the availability of therapeutic drugs. In 2020 Sonja moved to Cambridge together with the Patil lab where she will continue her work with food fermenting microbial communities and the interaction between gut bacteria and food compounds, drugs and antibiotics.


Research Interests:

Microbes grow almost everywhere, also in human food and body, and they share their environment with many other species, first of all other microbes. As a consequence, they have evolved a number of strategies to compete for nutrients, communicate and interact with other species and respond to environmental challenges such as presence of potentially toxic organic and inorganic compounds.

My research interests focus on interspecies-interactions in gut and food microbial communities, their effects and benefits, as well as bacterial responses to drugs, food compounds and environmental pollutants. Many of these compounds potentially affect bacterial metabolism and can thus lead to changes in growth, secretion patterns and microbial interactions. As a consequence this may alter the composition of microbial communities and impact host well-being.

I'm especially interested in understanding how microbes deal with such chemical challenges and aim at resolving the underlying mechanisms. My past and current work focusses on establishing kefir as a model food microbial community, bioaccumulation of human-targeted drugs by human gut bacteria and the impact of food-compounds, drugs and environmental pollutants on gut bacteria.



Key publications: 

Klünemann, M. §, Andrejev, S. §, Blasche, S. §, Mateus, A. § et al. (2021). Bioaccumulation of therapeutic drugs by human gut bacteria. Nature 597, 533–538.
§Those authors contributed equally.

Blasche, S. §., Kim, Y. §, Mars, R.A.T., Machado, D., Maansson, M., Kafkia, E., Milanese, A., Zeller, G., Teusink, B., Nielsen, J., et al. (2021). Metabolic cooperation and spatiotemporal niche partitioning in a kefir microbial community. Nat. Microbiology doi:10.1038/s41564-020-00816-5

Blasche, S., Mortl, M., Steuber, H., Siszler, G., Nisa, S., Schwarz, F., Lavrik, I., Gronewold, T. M., Maskos, K., Donnenberg, M. S. et al. (2013). The E. coli Effector Protein NleF Is a Caspase Inhibitor. PLoS One 8, e58937.

Google Scholar profile

Senior Research Associate

Contact Details

MRC Toxicology Unit
Gleeson Building
Tennis Court Road


Telephone and Email

Level 4 Shared Office
01223 335563