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Zoonoses Research

Information on zoonoses research

The term zoonosis is derived from the Greek words zoon (living being) and nosos (disease). Zoonoses are infectious diseases caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi, prions or viruses, which can be mutually transmitted between animals and humans. Transmission can occur through direct contact, via vectors such as ticks and mosquitoes, but also via milk, eggs, meat or other food. Many old known, but also newly emerging infectious diseases fall under this term. Due to factors such as rapid population growth, increasing mobility, changes in animal breeding and husbandry and climate change, zoonoses are becoming increasingly important.

Research on zoonoses takes place in Germany at numerous locations and institutions:

  • at universities,
  • at research facilities and federal institutes,
  • in small working groups,
  • in projects and large alliances

Close cooperation between scientists from all disciplines is particularly important in order to bring together knowledge and experience from all areas.
In particular, a close interaction between human and veterinary medicine is essential to develop a sound understanding of zoonotic pathogens and to be able to react quickly and efficiently to newly emerging pathogens.

Research will focus on the following topics:

  • Isolation and characterization of pathogens
  • Development and validation of infection models
  • Epidemiological studies on pathogens
  • Pathogenesis mechanisms
  • Diagnosis of zoonoses
  • Immune response, immunity and vaccine development
  • Therapeutics and therapeutic approaches
  • Prevention of zoonoses
  • Development of early warning systems
  • Development of remediation strategies
  • carrying out risk assessments.

on zoonoses

In March 2006, a research agreement on zoonoses was concluded between the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG). The aim of this agreement was to improve the prevention, diagnosis and therapy of zoonoses and thus the health protection of humans and animals in the long term on the basis of scientific principles.

This joint research agreement was extended on 29.01.2016. The Federal Ministry of Defence (BMVg) has joined as a new partner.

The basis for the renewal of the research agreement is the associated strengthening of the holistic, interdisciplinary "One Health" approach, which addresses the close relationship between humans, animals and the environment in the development and spread of diseases. The involvement of the four different Federal Ministries will enable the different areas of zoonoses research to be covered.

With the current research agreement, the participating federal ministries are launching new research initiatives with further developed thematic orientations. The aim is to support research and development that is closely geared to practical requirements. Funding will be provided primarily for research in the fields of diagnostics and therapy of zoonoses, prevention (including vaccination measures), epidemiology and integrated surveillance, and pathogenesis. These programmes are coordinated between the departments and complement each other thematically.

Research Agenda

The National Research Platform for Zoonoses coordinates and accompanies zoonoses research in Germany and provides a forum for all scientists involved. Through continuous strategy development a long-term and sustainable strengthening of zoonoses research should be achieved. This process was initiated in 2011 at a joint closed meeting of the committees of the Zoonoses Platform and the coordinators of the research networks on zoonotic infectious diseases that were being funded at the time. The research agenda drawn up at that time, on which the selection of pilot and cross-sectional projects is based, was revised and adapted in summer 2016. With the start of the current funding phase in 2019, interdisciplinary doctoral projects have also been added to the funding spectrum of the National Research Platform for Zoonoses.

The range of relevant research topics in zoonoses research is very broad. In the following some of the main research topics are listed.
Research thematic focus: 

  • Research topic new and/or novel zoonotic agents and alteration of pathogen reservoirs
  • Research topic predictive, diagnostic and therapeutic methods
  • Research topic Pathogenesis mechanisms and pathogen-cell interactions
  • Research topic systematic data bundling and networking
  • Networking with the public health sector

Here you can download the research agenda (german).