Emerging Infections

Time and again, some unknown pathogen suddenly causes an epidemic, such as the Ebola virus for instance. Whenever there is such an outbreak, we need quick action: the pathogen must be identified.© DZIF/scienceRELATIONS

Emerging virus epidemics occur unexpectedly and demand rapid action in order to stop the disease from spreading. The most recent outbreak of MERS coronavirus in Saudi Arabia and the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa highlighted the need for rapid communication to the public and the critical importance of developing diagnostics, vaccines and antiviral drugs as quickly as possible.

The DZIF research field “Emerging Infections” responded to these challenges by getting new vaccine candidates for both Ebola and MERS viruses underway, amongst other things. The aim now is to accelerate biomedical research on emerging viruses and to be prepared for emerging infectious diseases in the future.

Central Themes

  • Identifying unknown pathogens and outbreak management
    Researchers develop methods for rapid and reliable identification of unknown pathogens

  • Vaccine development
    Plans for optimising and validating both existing and new vaccine platforms in animal models have been scheduled.

  • Developing broad spectrum antiviral drugs
    Researchers search for antiviral substances with broad spectrum activity which can be developed further for use in emergencies. A virus testing pipeline has been established which can be used to determine the most promising substances.

Working Groups

  • Core unit "Virus detection and preparedness"
    Contact: Christian Drosten, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
  • Department for Surveillance of Arthropods and Arthropod-borne Pathogens (as ticks, mosquitos et cetera)
    Contact: Esther Schnettler, Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Hamburg
  •  „Animal Facility“: Facility to test vaccines and antivirals against emerging infections under BSL-3/4 conditions
    Contact: Stephan Becker, Philipps-Universität Marburg
  • Clinical Management und Epidemiology of emerging Infections“
    Contact: Marylyn Addo, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf

Participating Sites



Hamburg-Lübeck-Borstel- Riems





Interview with Stephan Becker, TTU "Emerging Infections" [in German]

Stephan Becker, Universität Marburg

Christian Drosten, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Ansgar Lohse, Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

Project manager
Katharina Grikscheit