Experimental Infection Research

Experimental Infection Research

Most infections cause highly variable disease courses amongst different individuals. This is due to a plethora of pathogen- and host-associated determinants as well as environmental factors that affect pathogen transmission and replication as well as inflammatory host responses. The complexity of the immune system and sophisticated evasion strategies of the pathogen impede a more comprehensive understanding of pathogenesis in humans. Nevertheless, a detailed mechanistic understanding of pathogenesis is needed to develop new preventive strategies and interventions. Therefore, the Institute for Experimental Infection Research focuses on three major research activities, (i) analysis of viral pathogenesis, (ii) development of innovative interventions, and (iii) identification of biomarkers in infectious diseases.

In order to study pathogen host interactions we make use of innovative mouse models as well as human blood and tissue samples from healthy individuals and patients. To better understand viral pathogenesis in humans we perform observational clinical trials. In addition we are currently preparing an interventional clinical trial to develop new therapeutic interventions. We focus specifically on early events in the immune response to identify checkpoints defining the balance between pathogen control and tissue destruction. Thereby, the analysis of individuals with enhanced vulnerability to infection such as patients with rheumatic diseases and immunosuppressed transplant patients are of particular interest.

Specifically, we aim for an improved understanding of how early anti-viral responses, including type I interferons, are induced in the host, what impact these responses have on the orchestration of the immune response, and how they affect the overall disease outcome. One important activity is to understand the relative contribution of immune cells and stroma to the production of protective type I interferon and how stroma educates adaptive immunity. To additionally unravel general principles of immune protection we focus on the analysis of processes underlying infection-associated tissue inflammation, including hepatitis and encephalitis. We study human viruses such as herpesviruses with a special emphasis on cytomegalovirus (CMV) and herpes simplex virus (HSV) as well as murine model viruses such as vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and mouse CMV (MCMV).


New diagnostic approach for meningoencephalitis by biomarkers

Unser Gehirn ist ein Hochsicherheitstrakt, das mit der Blut-Hirn-Schranke eine sehr effektive Barriere gegen Schadstoffe und Krankheitserreger errichtet hat. Trotzdem kann diese überwunden werden: Beispielsweise vom ...

Hepatitis therapy: balance between defence and regeneration via Kupffer cells

An inflammation of the liver can have different causes: besides infections with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV), also other viruses such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) are able to trigger acute hepatitis. Sometimes...

14. June 2017

Virus infections of bone marrow donors influence the outcome of transplantations

Stem cells in the bone marrow provide a life-long supply of blood and immune cells. If they display defects – either caused by hereditary diseases or blood cancer – the transplantation of bone marrow cells of a suitable donor is...

16. January 2017

Mode of action of a novel RNA-adjuvants detected – successful collaboration with the CureVac AG

For displaying the full effect, vaccines usually need support - particularly if they are consisting of small peaces of the pathogen. The supporters are called adjuvant and they are normally not part of the pathogen. For most of...

06. June 2016

TWINCORE scientists identified cause of susceptibility to infection in rheumatism patients

More than one million people in Germany suffer from rheumatism. In addition to their pain, they often show a susceptibility to infection: rheumatism patients contract more often with viruses and bacteria and become seriously ill....