The Institute of Novel and Emerging Infectious Diseases (INNT) focuses on viral zoonoses caused by
- Alphaviruses (American equine encephalomyelitis viruses)
- Bunyaviruses (Hanta, Rift Valley fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever viruses, etc.)
- Coronaviruses (SARS-CoV-2 and others)
- Flaviviruses (West Nile fever, Japanese encephalitis viruses, etc.)
- Henipaviruses (Nipah virus, Hendra virus, etc.)
- Hepeviruses (Hepatitis E viruses)
- Borna viruses
The main focus of the work is
- Investigation of the occurrence of viral zoonoses and TSEs and their significance in Europe, Africa and Asia
- Development and provision of sensitive and reliable molecular, serological and virological analysis methods
- Detection of newly emerging viruses and evolutionary changes of the pathogens
- Investigation of the pathogenesis and infections in the reservoir host (mainly wild animal species) as well as in dead end- or off-target hosts (mainly agricultural livestock). This includes the establishment of appropriate animal models.
- In the case of arboviruses (arthropod-borne pathogens), additional studies are carried out on vector competence
Furthermore, Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies are also a research topic.
Laboratory work and work with infected animals on these pathogens are carried out in special safety laboratories of biological safety levels (BSL) 3**, 3 and BSL4. The INNT is in charge of the area BSL4 Zoonoses at the FLI.
Since some of the zoonotic pathogens mentioned are viruses that have not yet been found in Germany or Europe, the INNT is conducting research projects in Africa (Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa) and Asia (Turkey). Networking/projects also exist with leading governmental and academic laboratories/institutions in almost all EU countries, in North America (USA and Canada), as well as in Ukraine and Australia.
Furthermore, since its foundation in 2001, INNT has been working on the further development of highly sensitive detection methods for prion pathogens (BSE, scrapie, chronic wasting disease) according to the 3R principle (Replace, Reduce, Refine) to reduce the use of experimental animals. Furthermore, work is carried out on the differentiation of prion strains, as well as research into current pathogenetic issues. In the past, INNT has performed extensive experimental BSE pathogenesis studies in cattle and small ruminants and operates a national BSE sample bank. This expertise continues to be available for future questions.