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Main areas of research: animal diseases, zoonoses, epidemiology of multi-resistant bacteria
Lothar Heinz Wieler is a veterinarian and microbiologist. His research focuses on epizootic diseases and infectious diseases which can be transmitted between animals and humans, so-called zoonoses. He particularly concentrates on infections involving multi-resistant bacteria and investigates their transmission mechanisms and disease-causing factors.
Zoonoses are caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses. The pathogens can be transmitted by ticks and mosquitoes, but also by milk, eggs, meat or other food items. Known zoonoses are borreliosis and early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE), both transmitted by ticks. But rabies, enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), BSE and Ebola fever also belong to this group. The Ebola virus can, for example, be transmitted by infected flying foxes – infections in animals and humans are closely related. Due to population growth and human mobility, zoonoses spread faster and faster and pathogens are introduced and transmitted before antibodies can be produced. Research into zoonoses is therefore becoming increasingly important.
With his work, Lothar Wieler hopes to clarify how bacterial pathogens infect different hosts. Molecular classification methods are used to identify the zoonotic pathogens within a bacterial species and decode their genesis and relationships. DNA sequence analyses, in vitro methods and animal models within the natural hosts (chicken, pig) are used to identify the bacterial factors (adhesins, invasins, toxins, modulins) that cause a successful infection in the respective host. The aim is to detect potential outbreaks of zoonotic diseases more quickly and to develop prophylactic intervention strategies.
A central challenge for Lothar Wieler and his colleagues is the increasing resistance of pathogens. Bacteria no longer react to antibiotics, viruses no longer to antivirals – pathogens are constantly developing new mechanisms of resistance. In order to recognize and understand these processes, pathogens are cultured and genetically modified. Subsequently, it will be investigated how pathogens and medication multiply and behave in the natural host (chicken, pig).