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- Claude Bernard -

“The joy of discovery is certainly the liveliest that the mind of man can ever feel”


During the last decade, I have worked on several scientific projects on probiotics, human microbiota, microbial-host interaction, bacterial-bacterial and bacterial-viral interaction on a molecular level. The main focus of my Ph.D. fellowship was the role of Lactobacillus species in preventing HIV infections in vitro by investigating the role of bacterial lectins and the possibilities to genetically modify lactobacilli to produce anti-HIV molecules. During my postdoctoral fellowship, I focused exclusively on the role of probiotic Lactobacillus species in the vaginal niche, as well as on the role of vaginal microbiota during health and disease.  As a member of high impact research groups (Bulgaria academic of Science, KU Leuven, Antwerp University (Belgium) and University of Western Ontario (Canada)), I have grown to be a high-skilled and result-driven scientist with a proven record of achieving scientific and personal goals. I was able to perform exciting research including genetic manipulation of various bacterial species, phenotypic characterization of new strains, manipulation of epithelial and immune cells, heterologous expression and purification of proteins, genome analyses of Lactobacillus species and analysis of microbiota data, mice and viral experiments. I had the opportunity to develop myself into an excellent skilled scientist with expertise in various laboratory techniques. This research expertise broadened my knowledge and opened my mind to new ideas. It also led to groundbreaking research which is exemplified by my highly cited reviews on vaginal microbiota in FEMS Microbiology Reviews, Frontiers in Physiology and Trends in Microbiology; my leading role in discovery of lectin proteins with the capacity to inhibit bacterial (Salmonella sp. and E. coli) biofilms and bind to gp120 published in PlosOne and Scientific Reports; my hard work on the optimization of genetic and molecular methods for Lactobacillus species published in JAC, Frontiers in Microbiology and AEM


  • Bacterial genetics and microbial work, construction of mutant strains, standard colonic techniques, DNA and RNA isolation, qPCR, microscopy;

  • Biochemical work: Protein isolation and purification, SDS-PAGE, Western blotting;

  • Extensive work with mouse, human epithelial and immune cell lines; cervical ex vivo models

  • Computer skills and bioinformatics: Windows; MS Office, Inkscape; GIMP, basic R programing language, analyzing microbiota data. Genome comparison between Lactobacillus species;

  • Experience with mouse models and with viral work.

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  1. Petrova M.I. (2019) Secrets of the vaginal microbiome:  why women’s microbes could be key to a healthy generation. Agro FOOD Industry Hi-Tech

  2. Ter Haar J. & Petrova M.I. (2019) Healthy women, healthy babies, a healthy future: the microbial point of view. Agro FOOD Industry Hi-Tech. 

  3. Allonsius C., Vandenheuvel D., Oerlemans E., Petrova M.I., Donders G, Cos P., Delputte P., Lebeer S. (2019). Inhibition of Candida albicans morphogenesis by chitinase from Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. Scientific Reports

  4. Agbaje J.O., Adisa O., Petrova M.I., Olusanya A.A., Osayomi T., Effiom O.A., Soyele O.O., Omitola O.G., Olawuyi A.B., Okiti R.O., Saiki T.E., Fomete B., Ibikunle A.A., Okwuosa C., Olajide M.A., Ladeji A.M., Adebiyi K.E., Emmanuel M.M., Lawal H.S., Uwadia E., Fakuade B.O., Abdullahi Y.M., PolitisC. (2018) Biological profile and jaw distribution of ameloblastoma among 1,246 Nigerians. TRIPLE O

  5. Spacova I., Seys S., Ceuppens J., Petrova M.I., Lebeer S. (2018). Probiotics against airway allergy: host factors to consider. Disease Models & Mechanisms. 

  6. Petrova M.I., van den Broek M.F.L, Spacova I., Verhoeven T., Balzarini J., Vanderleyden J., Schols D., Lebeer S. (2018). Expression of griffithsin and actinohivin displaying anti-HIV activity in Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and GR-1. International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.

  7. Spacova I., Petrova M.I., Fremau A., Pollaris L, Vanoirbeek J, Ceuppens J., Seys S., Lebeer S. (2018). Intranasal administration of probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG prevents birch pollen-induced allergic asthma in a murine model. Allergies.

  8. Petrova M.I., Macklaim J., Wuyts S., Verhoeven T., Vanderleyden J., Gloor G., Lebeer S., Reid G. (2018). Comparative genomic and phenotypic analysis of the vaginal probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1. Frontiers in Microbiology.

  9. Spacova I., Lievens E., Verhoeven T., Steenackers H., Vanderleyden J., Lebeer S., Petrova M.I. (2017). Expression of fluorescent proteins in Lactobacillus rhamnosus to study host-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions. Microbial Biotechnology.

  10. Younes J., Lievens E., Hummelen R., van der Westen R., Reid G., Petrova M.I. (2017). Women and their microbes: the unexpected friendship. Trends in Microbiology.

  11. Petrova M.I., Lievens E., Verhoeven T. Macklaim J., Gloor G., Schols D., Vanderleyden J., Reid G., Lebeer S. (2016). The lectin-like protein 1 in Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 mediates tissue-specific adherence to vaginal epithelium and inhibits urogenital pathogens. Scientific Reports.

  12. Petrova M.I., Imholz N., Verhoeven T., Balzarini J., Van Damme E., Schols D., Vanderleyden J., Lebeer S. (2016). Lectin-like molecules of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG inhibit pathogenic Escherichia coli and Salmonella biofilm formation. PLoS One.

  13. Petrova M.I., Reid G., Vaneechoutte M., Lebeer S. (2016). Lactobacillus iners: Friend or Foe?. Trends in Microbiology .

  14. Malik S.*, Petrova M.I.*, Imholz N., Verhoeven T., Noppen S., Van Damme E., Liekens S., Balzarini J., Schols D., Vanderleyden J., Lebeer S. (2016). High mannose-specific lectin Msl mediates key interactions of the vaginal Lactobacillus plantarum isolate CMPG5300. Scientific Reports. *Equal contribution

  15. Gordts S., Férir G., D'huys T., Petrova M.I., Lebeer S., Snoeck R., Andrei G., Schols D. (2015). The low-cost compound lignosulfonic acid exhibits broad-spectrum anti-HIV and anti-HSV activity and has the potential for microbicidal applications. PLoS One.

  16. Vargas Garcia C., Petrova M.I., Claes I., De Boeck I., Verhoeven T. Dilissen E., von Ossowski I., Palva A., et al., (2015). Piliation of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG promotes adhesion, phagocytosis and cytokine modulation in macrophages. Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

  17. Petrova M.I.*, Lievens E.*, Malik S.*, Imholz N., Lebeer S. (2015). Lactobacillus species as biomarkers and agents that can promote various aspects of vaginal health. Frontiers in Physiology, *Equal contribution. 

  18. Petrova M.I., van den Broek M., Balzarini J., Vanderleyden J., Lebeer S. (2013). Vaginal microbiota and its role in HIV transmission and infection. FEMS Microbiology Reviews.

  19. Férir G., Petrova M.I., Andrei G., Huskens D., Hoorelbeke B., Snoeck R., et al., (2013). The lantibiotic peptide labyrinthopeptin A1 demonstrates broad anti-HIV and anti-HSV activity with the potential for microbicidal applications. PLoS One.

  20. Malik S., Petrova M.I., Claes I., Verhoeven T., Busschaert P., Vaneechoutte M., et al., (2013). The highly autoaggregative and adhesive phenotype of the vaginal Lactobacillus plantarum strain CMPG5300 is sortase dependent. Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

  21. Petrova M.I.*, Mathys L.*, Lebeer S., Noppen S., Van Damme E., Tanaka H., Igarashi Y., Vaneechoutte M., Vanderleyden J., Balzarini J. (2013). Inhibition of infection and transmission of HIV-1 and lack of significant impact on the vaginal commensal lactobacilli by carbohydrate-binding agents. The Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy,  * Equal contribution. 

  22. Babic Z., Crkvencic M., Rajic Z., Mikecin A.-M., Kralj M., Balzarini J., Petrova M.I., Vanderleyden J., Zorc B. (2012). New sorafenib derivatives: synthesis, antiproliferative activity against tumor cell lines and antimetabolic evaluation. Molecules.

  23. Perea Vélez M.*, Petrova M.I.*, Lebeer S.*, Verhoeven T., Claes I., Lambrichts I., Vanderleyden J., De Keersmaecker S. (2010). Characterization of MabA, a modulator of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG adhesion and biofilm formation. FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology,  *Equal contribution. 

  24. Petrova M.I., Georgieva, R., Dimitonova, S., Ivanovska, S., Hadjieva, N., Danova, S. (2009). Inhibitory activity of vaginal lactobacilli against human pathogens. Biotechnology & Biotechnological Equipment.

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