Research Group Translational Virology

Through close cooperation with the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology at the Hannover Medical School, the junior research group "Translational Virology" is working on virological questions that arise in dealing with infected patients. The results should help to improve diagnostics, the understanding of the course of the disease or the therapy of patients in the long term. 

Our thematic focus is on the hepatitis E virus (HEV), the most frequent viral trigger of acute liver inflammation worldwide. The virus has become increasingly important in recent years, both worldwide and in Germany. The Robert Koch Institute was able to prove through serological examinations that approximately 420,000 people in Germany have contact with the virus every year. Recently, in the analysis of blood donors in Hannover, it was found that one out of 524 people are infected with hepatitis E at the time of donation (Cordes et al., 2022). The virus is almost exclusively dangerous for people with pre-existing liver disease. Normally, this viral infection heals spontaneously in otherwise healthy persons. However, there is a risk of developing chronic hepatitis E in immunosuppressed persons (for example, persons after organ transplantation), for which there is currently no approved therapy. In these cases, a so-called "off-label" therapy with ribavirin over several months can lead to a cure, but is associated with side effects in some cases (Kamar et al., 2020).

Research on HEV is still in its infancy and there are key areas of the life cycle, pathogenicity and transmission that are not fully understood. 

To address these gaps in our knowledge, an efficient cell culture system has been developed in recent years that allows the study of the different propagation steps of the virus. 

We are using this cell culture system to close these knowledge gaps in close collaboration with national and international cooperation partners (Todt et al., 2020). 

Cordes, A.K., Goudeva, L., Lutgehetmann, M., Wenzel, J.J., Behrendt, P., Wedemeyer, H., Heim, A., 2022. Risk of transfusion-transmitted hepatitis E virus infection from pool-tested platelets and plasma. J Hepatol 76, 46-52.

Kamar, N., Abravanel, F., Behrendt, P., Hofmann, J., Pageaux, G.P., Barbet, C., Moal, V., Couzi, L., Horvatits, T., De Man, R.A., Cassuto, E., Elsharkawy, A.M., Riezebos-Brilman, A., Scemla, A., Hillaire, S., Donnelly, M.C., Radenne, S., Sayegh, J., Garrouste, C., Dumortier, J., Glowaki, F., Matignon, M., Coilly, A., Figueres, L., Mousson, C., Minello, A., Dharancy, S., Rerolle, J.P., Lebray, P., Etienne, I., Perrin, P., Choi, M., Marion, O., Izopet, J., Hepatitis, E.V.R.S.G., 2020. Ribavirin for Hepatitis E Virus Infection After Organ Transplantation: A Large European Retrospective Multicenter Study. Clin Infect Dis 71, 1204-1211.

Todt, D., Friesland, M., Moeller, N., Praditya, D., Kinast, V., Bruggemann, Y., Knegendorf, L., Burkard, T., Steinmann, J., Burm, R., Verhoye, L., Wahid, A., Meister, T.L., Engelmann, M., Pfankuche, V.M., Puff, C., Vondran, F.W.R., Baumgartner, W., Meuleman, P., Behrendt, P., Steinmann, E., 2020. Robust hepatitis E virus infection and transcriptional response in human hepatocytes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 117, 1731-1741.