Gastrointestinal infections kill around three million people globally each year. Diarrheal infections are responsible for approximately 2.5 million deaths per year (4% of all deaths, and 15% of deaths in children up to four years; WHO 2008). The most important gastrointestinal (GI) pathogens that cause acute diarrhea include Campylobacter jejuni/coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Escherichia coli, Yersinia enterocolitica, Vibrio cholerae, Clostridium difficile, rotaviruses, noroviruses, and Entamoeba histolytica. In addition to the diarrheal pathogens, one of the most important gastrointestinal pathogens is Helicobacter pylori. Approximately half of the world population is infected with this pathogen, which is the main cause for gastric cancer. No effective vaccines are available for any of the leading gastrointestinal pathogens, and treatment options are unsatisfactory for most of them. There is thus an urgent need for novel vaccines and therapeutic interventions.
The mission of the Thematic Translational Unit "Gastrointestinal Infections" is to improve the diagnosis, treatment and prophylaxis of bacterial gastrointestinal infections, and thereby aims at reducing the morbidity and mortality from these diseases. Uniquely, all interventions developed will be selective for specific pathogens or groups of them, rather than broadly attacking pathogens and commensals alike. Another important research focus is to develop therapies that protect the microbiota during interventions against GI pathogens.
- Development of inhibitors of gastrointestinal pathogen virulence factors
- Development of a vaccine against Helicobacter pylori
- The gastrointestinal microbiota and its interaction with gastrointestinal pathogens and the immune system.
Sebastian Suerbaum, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover
Ingo Autenrieth, Universität & Universitätsklinikum Tübingen
Markus Gerhard, Technische Universität München