Infection Medicine with Neuroinfectiology

[Translate to English:] Pipettierarbeit unter der Werkbank

One Health - One Medicine

The field of infectious medicine has developed rapidly over the last 20 years at the TiHo and has become a second very visible research focus. This was also seen by the Science Council, which in 2007 and 2008 recommended 2 research buildings in the field of infectious medicine and zoonosis research. The result is the "Research Center for Emerging Infections and Zoonoses (RIZ)" with over 4000 square meters of laboratory and animal husbandry space - unique in the university sector - under S2 and S3 security levels. The "One Health - One Medicine" idea stands above all projects in the RIZ with the goal of implementing veterinary and human medical as well as ecological aspects in scientific concepts.

In order to further expand the research strength of the TiHo in the field of infectious medicine, 4 professorships in the following areas have been newly filled in recent years: "Vector-borne infectious diseases", "Genetics and bioinformatics of infectious diseases", "Infection immunology" and "Infection biochemistry". To support the implementation of the RIZ concept, TiHo was able to attract several scientists as national and international visiting professors. In addition, in 2018, a professorship in virology at TiHo was awarded as an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship - for the first time at a veterinary educational institution.

Infectious medicine is an important core discipline for all of veterinary medicine. Due to the scientific-technological development of the last decades, the fields of bacteriology and mycology, virology and parasitology have converged with regard to their basic questions and methodology. In addition to the subject-specific classical methods, cell and tissue culture and a wide range of molecular biological techniques are used in all working groups.

Thematically, this research focus at the TiHo is characterized by pathogens of veterinary importance, which on the one hand occur primarily in animals and on the other hand can be transmitted between humans and animals, i.e. zoonoses. Besides the elucidation of virulence factors and resistance mechanisms, basic mechanisms of host-pathogen interaction are investigated. Topics include:

  • Zoonotic viruses (e.g. pathogens of Chikungunya, Rift Valley Fever, West Nile, TBE, Zika, MERS, SARS or Covid-19) and viral animal pathogens (e.g. classical swine fever virus)
  • Development of improved methods for diagnosis, therapy, and prophylaxis, e.g., immunological research on the importance of T cells in the immune system or immune memory in influenza viruses
  • Development of new vaccination strategies and new vaccines, e.g., with efficacy against as many different variants of the mutable influenza viruses as possible
  • Bacterial zoonotic pathogens (e.g., Coxiella burnetii, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Yersinia, Streptococcus suis, or hemorrhagic Escherichia coli)
  • Characterization and dissemination of vectors for disease transmission such as ticks, mosquitoes or worms

In the field of infectious medicine, the TiHo is visibly funded by the EU in addition to the BMBF (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Zoonosis Platform) and has the role of coordinator in several EU projects. In addition, the DFG is an important funding body; among others, the DFG Research Training Group "Viper -Virus Detection, Pathogenesis and Intervention" has emerged from the research activities.

In addition to Infection Medicine, the TiHo had identified the area of "Systemic Neuroscience" as a research focus over the past 20 years. As a new important field of research within infectious medicine, "Neuroinfectiology" has emerged in recent years as a link between infectious medicine and neuroscience. Infectious diseases as well as neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system (CNS) represent major medical challenges in the coming decades. Numerous CNS diseases are directly or indirectly caused by infections or by misdirected immune responses to infectious agents. To establish the new field of Neuroinfectiology, the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony and the Volkswagen Foundation have funded an internationally renowned research network "Niedersachsen-Research Network on Neuroinfectiology" (N-RENNT) at the TiHo with more than 7 million Euros. This has led to an initiative to apply for a DFG transregional/special research area in the research field.