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Institute of Molecular Pathogenesis (IMP)

Workgroup Infection and Immunity

Bacterial infections of farm animals can cause severe clinical illness. Some infections do not cause evident symptoms, but lead to persistent excretion of the agent by the host animals. Such persistent infections can reduce the performance of farm animals or increase the susceptibility to other diseases. Persistent infection of farm animals with zoonotic pathogens is of particular importance.

Host defense plays a crucial role in the way bacteria interact with the host animal, which is decisive for the clinical course. Many bacteria have adapted to their host animals by developing strategies (virulence factors) to manipulate the host’s immune system in their favor.

Our research on bacterial animal diseases and zoonoses focuses on the development and improvement of diagnostic methods (indirect infection diagnostics) and prophylactic measures (vaccines). This requires a profound understanding of the pathogen’s interaction with the host’s immune system, particularly in the stage of clinically asymptomatic carriership (carrier state). As the structure and function of the immune system of farm animals differ considerably from those of mice and humans, species-specific characteristics must be taken into account.

In addition to conducting basic research on the characterization of the immune system of poultry (chickens, turkeys) and ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats) the workgroup pursues the following long-term goals:

  • Analysis of the function of the innate and adaptive immune system in the latency / persistence stage of bacterial infections.
  • Characterization of molecular mechanisms in the induction of persistence by microbial virulence factors.


The workgroup consists of the following research areas:

Research area Poultry
Research area Ruminants