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Our group is concerned with the diversity and evolution of RNA viruses, especially with zoonotic viruses, which have their reservoir in other mammals and can sometimes trigger severe diseases in humans. By studying virus diversity in known and suspected animal reservoirs, we try to better understand the biology of these viruses. The knowledge gained also helps us to develop diagnostic tests for these new and emerging viruses.
I am coordinating a collaborative research project between the Institute of virology, Charite׳ and partners in Ghana under the auspices of the PANDORA-ID-NET consortium. The study is looking at the outcomes of encephalitis in a resource-limited setting.
In addition to the nucleic acid based methods for pathogen detection, detection of antibodies is an important method for epidemiological studies and virus diagnostics. I’m in charge for development and application of these methods for new and zoonotic v
Acute encephalitis can be caused by over 100 viruses, making clinical diagnostics extremely challenging. I aim to develop an HTS framework to address this challenge and also to understand within-host diversity of these viruses
Rabies virus is a major public health threat in Western Africa. My aim is to analyse circulating rabies virus strains and to assess antibody titres in dogs from three different ecozones in Ghana.
I. Virus diagnostics
We develop and evaluate novel tools for the diagnostics of emerging viruses. Together with our diagnostic team at Labor Berlin, we are working on the implementation of High-Throughput Sequencing (HTS) technologies for the routine detection of viral diseases in humans. Our current work focuses on pathogens that can cause acute or chronic encephalitis (e.g. Lyssavirus, Enterovirus, Flavivirus…).
Our work on virus diagnostics is funded by an intramural grant from Labor Berlin – Charité Vivantes Services GmbH and by a grant from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) via the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
II. Clinical virology
Currently, we focus on chronic Hepatitis E virus infection and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). We are interested in the diagnostics, epidemiology and clinical presentation of MERS-CoV infections in humans and potential animal reservoirs. We act as the National Consultant Laboratory for human Coronaviruses and accept samples for diagnostic investigations of cases compatible with the WHO case definition of MERS-CoV infection. We also provide reference services (i.e., confirmatory testing and troubleshooting) to laboratories worldwide.
Our work on chronic Hepatitis E virus infection is funded by a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Health. Our work on MERS-CoV is funded by the German Centre of Infection Research (DZIF) and the German Federal Ministry of Health (National Consultant Laboratory).
Human West Nile Virus case imported to Germany
A patient hospitalized in Berlin since 18th August 2018 has been confirmed to have an infection with West Nile Virus (WNV). The infection was likely acquired during a holiday trip to Northern Italy (Venice area) after his return cerebrospinal fluid and blood samples taken on 28th of August tested positive for West Nile virus RNA.
In light of the recent increase of human West Nile virus cases in Southern Europe (see: https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/west-nile-fever/surveillance-and-disease-data/disease-data-ecdc
for details) and the lack of any available virus sequences we want to share the WNV genome sequence obtained from the CSF sample of this case. Download-LINK *.fasta
The full genome sequence is highly similar to that of strain Italy/2014/Verona/35.2 (GenBank Acc No. KP789956), a strain that belongs to genetic lineage II and was obtained from a human case in the same geographic area 4 years ago. There are only 12 nucleotide exchanges across the entire genome of 10,939 nt.
The sequence has been submitted to GenBank for immediate release (GenBank Acc. no. MH910045).
III. Ecology and Evolution of Zoonotic Viruses
We mainly work on RNA viruses causing diseases in humans and livestock or feral animals. Currently, we focus on the evolutionary origins of human Coronaviruses and a novel zoonotic genotype of Hepatitis E virus found in dromedary camels (Orthohepevirus A genotytpe 7).
This work is funded by a project from the German Centre of Infection Research (DZIF) as well as the German Academic Exchange Service.
- Prof. Thomas Bock, Viral Gastroenteritis and Hepatitis Pathogens and Enteroviruses, Robert Koch-Institute, Berlin, Germany
- Dr. Sally Baylis, Paul-Ehrlich-Institute, Langen
- Prof. Steve Goodman, The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois, USA
- Prof. Jörg Jores, Institute of Veterinary Bacteriology, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
- Prof. Jörg Ganzhorn, Institute of Zoology, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
- Prof. Simone Sommer, Institute of Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Genomics, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany
- Prof. Ulrich Wernery, Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, Dubai, UAE