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The team

Rostislav Bekchiev, Stanimira Deleva, Yordan Hodzhev, Mario Langourov, Ognyan Mikov, Nedko Nedyalkov, Rumyana Nenova, Gancho Slavov, Pavel Stoev, Niya Toshkova, Borislava Tsafarova, Vladimir Tolchkov, Nikolay Simov, Stefan Panaiotov

The project is an example of close collaboration between clinical microbiologists, molecular biologists, zoologists, speleologists and bioinformatics specialists. The combination of knowledge from these fields makes the research interdisciplinary.

The National Museum of Natural History in Sofia (NMNHS) at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences is where biospeleological research began in Bulgaria and where it is currently concentrated. The museum’s Centre for Biospeleology stores a large amount of data from over 90 years of cave research. The bat specialist in the team has been working with infectious diseases in bats and pathogen pollution in caves. All museum experts involved in the project have vast experience in researching underground habitats and species. The team members are qualified cavers, and one third of the team is qualified cave rescuers, part of Cave Rescue — Bulgaria, which is a huge advantage in light of the specific requirements for biospeleological research.

The National Center of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases (NCIPD) team has a strong interest in studying the human microbiome and latent infectious agents. They have developed a successful strategy for analyzing the blood microbiome using blood culture, microscopy and next-generation DNA sequencing. Among cultured and uncultivated blood samples, the team identified a large biodiversity of OTU (Operational Taxonomic Unit) belonging to 6 types (phylum) and 15 bacterial orders (ordo), with Proteobacteria of the genus predominating. Types (phylum) Ascomycota and Basidiomycota predominate among the proven fungi.