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AG Drexler - Virus Epidemiology

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Research Focus

We focus on the evolution and epidemiology of emerging viruses at the animal-human interface. Major achievements in the past include the development of affordable tests for HIV, hepatitis C virus and yellow fever virus for Brazilian public laboratories, the uncovering of the zoonotic origins of major human viruses like hepatitis A and B virus, and the elucidation of central aspects of the epidemiology of the Latin American Zika virus outbreak.

Group Leader

Staff: Stefanie Bandura, Sebastian Brünink, Victor Carvalho Urbieta, Angelica Cristine de Almeida Campos, Edmilson Ferreira de Oliveira, Carlo Fischer, Anna Frühauf, Antje Kamprad, Arne Kühne, Suvi Kuivanen, Andres Enrique Moreira Soto, Nadine Olk, Ximena Tabares, Christoph Zimmer.

Alumni: Angelica Cristine de Almeida Campos, Patrick Dörner, Luiz Gustavo Bentim Góes.

Projects

Arbovirus Epidemiology

Moreira-Soto et al., Clin Microbiol Infect, 2018

Arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) infect millions of people annually and are major threats to public health. Fueled by global warming and increasing human mobility, arboviruses and their vectors spread rapidly. Arboviruses of major importance in recent years are the Zika virus, the Chikungunya virus and the Yellow fever virus, which all caused large outbreaks in Latin America. In close collaboration with Brazilian partners, we conduct epidemiological studies to gain insights into the ecology, the evolution and the pathogenesis of arboviruses. We are particularly interested in why Zika virus causes congenital malformations in some, but not all pregnant women infected. Our research includes the examination of potential co-factors affecting the disease outcome and the exploration of potential animal reservoirs which could allow Zika to survive in sylvatic transmission cycles in Latin America.

 

Funding: ZIKAlliance (EU), ZikaStock (Roche), ZIKApath (DZIF)

Arbovirus novel diagnostics

Fischer et al., Lancet Infect Dis., 2019

Robust and timely diagnosing of arbovirus infections is fundamental to provide optimal patient care and forms the basis of successful outbreak surveillance and response. Diagnostics of arbovirus infections are hampered by inconclusive symptoms and co-circulation of different arboviruses, often in resource-limited settings. We support diagnostic laboratories by developing innovative tests amenable for resource-limited settings, provide optimized protocols and conduct external quality assessments. We focus on molecular surveillance of Chikungunya virus, molecular diagnostics of Zika virus and broad detection of alphaviruses and flaviviruses.

 

Funding: Alphanet (BMBF), ArboFusion (BMBF), HONOURs (EU)

Macro-evolutionary patterns of human viruses and their animal homologues

Rasche et al., J Hepatol, 2019

We focus on the evolutionary biology of human-pathogenic viruses originating from animal reservoirs. Recent studies of our group revealed evolutionary origins of major human viruses like hepatitis A virus in marsupials, hedgehogs and bats, all belonging to some of the oldest mammalian orders. Characterization of functional and genomic properties of these highly diversified viruses contributes to understanding their macro-evolutionary patterns to elucidate why and which reservoir-bound viruses have become major human pathogens.

 

Funding: DZIF, Probing persistence paradigms (HFSP), HONOURs (EU)

Pandemic Dialogue

The "Pandemic Dialogue" aims to promote scientific exchange between Latin American countries on pandemic containment. This format aims to promote dialogue with experts from partner countries beyond the emergency response. Scientific findings on how to deal with the pandemic will lead to policy exchanges among stakeholders to derive approaches for government action and adapt measures.

Selected publications and information materials:

Networking:

Red del Diálogo sobre la Pandemia entre Alemania, América Latina y el Caribe (LinkedIn Plattform)

 

Funding: Federal Foreign Office - Latin America and Caribbean Initiative

 

Global Health

Cooperation projects in the Global South
SEEG mission in Nicaragua
SEEG mission in Colombia
SEEG mission in Ecuador
SEEG mission in Mexico

Global change is challenging the relationship of viruses to their animal reservoirs and the environment. To understand the emergence of new viruses and their potential impact on human health, we combine interdisciplinary One Health/Global Health approaches that include bacterial and viral pathogens, human and veterinary medicine, laboratory-based and clinical medicine, and the influence of ecological factors on the emergence and pathogenesis of infectious diseases. This work has enabled us to build a relevant transnational and multidisciplinary network in the Global South.

International collaboration includes research projects in Madagascar and Guatemala, the development of global pandemic prevention centers in Latin America and Africa, and active scientific communication work.

Links: 

 

SEEG Missions

In cooperation with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Professor Drexler's team supported the COVID-19 diagnostic work in the countries of the global South. Within the framework of Rapid Health Expert Group (SEEG) missions, the Charite experts supplied reagents and laboratory equipment and provided training to local laboratory staff in the use of diagnostic tools. The SEEG is a joint project of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG).  

Cooperation Partners

  • Prof. Alexander N. Lukashev, Chumakov Institute for Encephalitides, Moscow, Russia
  • Prof. Eric M. Leroy, Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville (CIRMF), Gabon
  • Prof. Roberto Franke, Federal University of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil
  • Prof. Eduardo M. Netto, Federal University of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil
  • Prof. Dieter Glebe, University of Giessen, Germany
  • Prof. Martin Beer, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Greifswald – Insel Riems, Germany
  • PD Rainer Ulrich, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Greifswald – Insel Riems, Germany
  • Prof. Eike Steinmann, TWINCORE, Zentrum für Experimentelle und Klinische Infektionsforschung GmbH, Hannover, Germany
  • Prof. Thomas Pietschmann, TWINCORE, Zentrum für Experimentelle und Klinische Infektionsforschung GmbH, Hannover, Germany
  • Prof. Xavier de Lamballerie, Unité de Virus Emergents, Faculté de Médecine, Marseille, France
  • PD Thomas Jänisch Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg, Germany
  • Dr. Alvaro Aguilar Setién, Unidad de Investigación Médica en Inmunología,  Hospital de Pediatría, México D.F., Mexico
  • Prof. Thijs Kuiken, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • Prof. Eugenia Corrales Aguilar, Virology-CIET, University of Costa Rica, Costa Rica
  • Prof. Dr. Bert Hoffmann, GIGA, German Institute for Global and Area Studies, Berlin, Germany

Significant publications

A current list of all publications can be found in the pubmed-List and on FACTScience.

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