Infectious Disease Epidemiology

Infectious Disease Epidemiology

The Institute for Infectious Disease Epidemiology investigates determinants and consequences of infectious diseases and their global occurrence . Particular focus is given to disease prevention in the general population. The Institute addresses this goal by developing novel diagnostic tools in complementary projects:

We are in process to develop a differential serology platform to distinguish sources of serologic immunity in humans, i.e.  antibodies resulting from a naturally passed infection versus those resulting from vaccination against an infectious agent. The approach has been successfully applied for the Hepatitis A Virus and provides a tool for assessing vaccine impact in prospective longitudinal studies and  sero-epidemiologic surveys. The tool may also be applied in  outbreak investigations, for example to identify asymptomatic infections among vaccinated individuals.  The vision is to expand this differential serology to further vaccine- preventable pathogens with higher immunological complexities. This differential serology approach has now also been established for SARS-CoV 2 antibodies, generated by immunization or natural infection.  

We conduct further research on novel approaches for improving and enabling the collection of human biosamples. Especially large epidemiologic cohort studies challenge the collection of high-quality bio-specimen as they are cost-intensive and require the recruitment of large numbers of (voluntarily) participating individuals. New approaches can enhance recruitment and quality assurance, e.g. through avoiding the need for permanent cool chain of samples. It is also fundamental for individualized medicine and remote settings to close spatio-temporal gap between sampling and analysis of bio-specimen. The Institute aims to address these challenges by developing and validating novel procedures that can  be applied by the individuals themselves at any place and thus becoming applicable even in areas and countries with poor infrastructure.

Both projects complement each other in making research activity possible, that so far cannot be addressed for procedural or technical barriers and to pioneer these methods for potential improvements of patient care in the future.

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 for Infectious Disease Epidemiology originates from the Epidemiology Department at the HZI. By maintaining a very close liaison between the two, TWINCORE links directly to the following strategically important epidemiological infrastructures: 
The Study Centre of the German National Cohort, which is located within the Hannover Clinical Research Centre, neighbouring the TWINCORE premises. It provides a unique opportunity to verify or apply research findings generated within TWINCORE within a large scale cohort study of 10.000 adults in Hannover and 200.000 throughout Germany.

The Translational Infrastructure Biodata, Bioressources and Digital Health of the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) promotes and supports translational research, in particular through the implementation of epidemiological expertise, meta-analyses, and infection-dynamic modeling and by the evaluation and development of digital tools. This also creates a functional link between the TWINCORE and the DZIF.