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Unit 18: Sexually transmitted bacterial Pathogens (STI) and HIV

Dagmar Heuer
Sebastian Banhart

Members of Unit 18 investigate and carry out research into the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as well as other exogenous and endogenous retroviruses that are potentially pathogenic for humans.

The occurrence of HIV variants and the dynamics of their spread in Germany is monitored and the molecular epidemiology of circulating strains is analysed in the unit's accredited HIV Study Laboratory. These studies as well as the monitoring of drug resistant HIV transmission and persistence are performed as part of national and international networks and in close collaboration with the infectious disease epidemiologists at the institute.

The major aim of these studies is to ensure the accuracy of HIV diagnostics, to optimise strategies for the antiretroviral treatment for HIV infected patients, and to use our knowledge of the dynamics of spread of HIV to improve prevention concepts. In addition, techniques for the diagnosis of emerging or rare retroviruses are being developed and established.

A second focus of the unit is to investigate virus-host interactions, in order to identify potential targets for novel therapeutic interventions. In this regard, pathogenic mechanisms that lead to AIDS and other retrovirus associated diseases are especially being researched. These studies are concentrated on cellular restriction factor that restrict the replication of endogenous and exogenous viruses as well as virulence factors. Other projects deal with a characterization of the HIV reservoir in patients undergoing therapy, the analysis and induction of immune responses as well as the virus safety of xenotransplantation.

In addition, the unit is also responsible for the management of a biological safety laboratory for viruses at biosafety level 3 (BSL3).


Detailed information concerning the tasks of the unit and the projects carried out in this context can be found under the following links.

Date: 15.11.2021