Infectious Disease Epidemiology

Infectious Disease Epidemiology

The Institute of Infectious Disease Epidemiology focuses it research activities on understanding spread, risk factors and consequences of infectious diseases, with the a special emphasis on preventing infectious diseases in the general population, the development of novel diagnostic methods or digital tools for instance for contact tracing in disease outbreaks. 

An important prerequisite for both the development of novel diagnostic tools, the diagnosis of infectious diseases in day-to-day clinical practice, as well as for the evaluating outcomes of large epidemiological cohort studies, is the availability of high-quality bio-specimens. Interrupted cold chains or temperature fluctuations in transport particularly contribute to insufficient sample quality in cohort studies, especially in structurally weaker regions. Here, we are working on new approaches and techniques for the collection and storage of human bio-samples to ensure sample integrity and quality.

When it comes to developing novel diagnostic tools, we focus on multiplex-based antibody detection methods to detect past infections while at the same time determine levels of protective immunity to prevent a reinfection. Key in our method development is here, if applicable, to determine if antibodies were induced after an exposure to the pathogen or following a preventive vaccination. A first proof of concept for this so-called differential serolomics approach was achieved for hepatitis A virus (HAV) where distinct antibody profiles following infection or vaccination allow for instance to assess success of HAV vaccination campaigns. By now, we have extended this concept to differentiate between humoral SARS-CoV-2 vaccination or infections responses.

Both projects complement each other by enabling research activities that previously could not be accomplished due to procedural hurdles, and thus contribute to the direct health care improvements.

What is Infectious Disease Epidemiology?

Infection Epidemiology conducts research on the behavior of contagious diseases at the population level : Who is sick? Who stays healthy? What factors influence whether and how to spread an infectious disease? What other diseases are influenced by infections or even triggered? By systematic queries, clinical examinations and laboratory diagnostic documentation for both healthy and afflicted individuals, as well as statistical analysis of the compiled data, infection epidemiologists identify causes and risk factors for infections.

This means Infection epidemiology contributes to the development of preventive measures, early detection and therapy for diseases. Moreover, it examines the efficacy of such measures. Thus epidemiology is another link between basic research and medicine, and complements the translational activities at TWINCORE.

A bridge between TWINCORE and HZI

The Institute of Infectious Disease Epidemiology emerged from the Department of Epidemiology at the HZI. Due to the very close liaison between the two units, TWINCORE is directly linked to the following epidemiological infrastructure facilities:

The NAKO Study Center, located in the CRC (Clinical Research Centre) building in Hannover in close proximity to the TWINCORE, offers a unique opportunity to verify and utilize TWINCORE based-research outcomes in a large-scale cohort study consisting of with 10,000 participants from Hannover and a total of 200,000 from all over Germany.

The Translational Infrastructure Biodata, Bioresources and Digital Health, of the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) promotes and supports translational research, especially by conducting epidemiological studies, meta-analyses, dynamic infectious disease modeling and evaluating and developing of digital healthcare tools. This also creates a functional link between TWINCORE and the DZIF.