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Watching virus-infected cells under an inverted light microscope at RKI's BSL-4 laboratory. Source: Schnartendorff/RKI

Specialised Laboratories at the Robert Koch Institute

The Robert Koch Institute offers diagnostic services not only in its National Reference Centres and Consultant Laboratories, but also in laboratories specialised for specific agents and diagnostic methods.

The Robert Koch Institute hosts specialised laboratories for highly pathogenic bacterial microorganisms (e.g. Bacillus anthracis), microbial toxins (e.g. Botulinum toxins), for viral hemorrhagic fevers and retroviruses.

In summer 2018, the Robert Koch Instiute’s new BSL-4 laboratory has become fully operational and is now available for the diagnosis of viruses requiring the highest biosecurity level.

Date: 31.07.2018

Specialised laboratory for biological toxins

Consultant laboratory for neurotoxin-producing clostridia

In unit ZBS 3, selected microbial and plant toxins are analysed based on biological, genetic and serological methods as well as chromatographic methods and mass spectroscopy. ZBS 3 also hosts the Consultant laboratory for neurotoxin-producing clostridia (botulism, tetanus).

In case of suspect botulism cases: Please call us before you submit any samples.

Diagnostic range
ToxinDetection method
AbrinELISA, funct. methods, spectroscopy*
Clostridium botulinum toxins ELISA, cultivation, functional methods, spectroscopy*, nucleic acid detection, subtyping
Clostridium tetani toxincultivation, functional method, nucleic acid detection
RicinELISA, functional methods, spectroscopy*, nucleic acid detection
Staphylococcal enterotoxin B from S. aureusELISA, cultivation, spectroscopy*

* carried out at ZBS 6


Dr. Brigitte Dorner
030 18754 2500
030 18754 2501
Dr. Brigitte Dorner


ZBS 3: Biological Toxins

Logo für Akkreditierung des Labors

Logo für ein Konsiliarlabor der Deutschen Veterinärmedizinischen Gesellschaft (öffnet externe Internetseite)

Date: 01.03.2017

    Electron Microscopy

    Consultant Laboratory for Diagnostic Electron Microscopy of Infectious Pathogens

    Diagnostic electron microscopy provides a rapid survey about pathogens present in a sample. All micro and nanoparticles, including the smallest known virus particles, can be detected based on morphological criteria, which allows to reveal and to describe even emerging pathogens. At best, the investigation by electron microscopy provides a quick tentative diagnosis which guides and speeds up a further, more specific diagnosis. Additionally, diagnostic electron microscopy may exclude the presence of a suspected pathogen and serve as an independent control for the diagnosis by other methods.

    More on Diagnostic Electron Microscopy of Infectious Pathogens


    Dr. Michael Laue
    +49 30 18754 2675
    Dr. Michael Laue

    Date: 07.11.2017

      HIV Study Laboratory

      Heads of HIV Study Laboratory: Dr. Karolin Meixenberger and Dr. Kirsten Hanke


      In the HIV study laboratory of FG18, comprehensive molecular-epidemiological data on HIV in Germany are obtained in order to better understand the spread dynamics and epidemiology as well as the intra-patient evolution and pathogenesis of this infection. More than 4.000 samples from people living with HIV are examined every year using the latest techniques for sequencing and bioinformatic analyses. The generated HIV sequence data is linked to epidemiological data in order to formulate, adapt and evaluate prevention strategies and to make recommendations for the diagnosis and therapy of HIV infection.

      Molecular-epidemiological analyzes of HIV are currently being carried out as part of three studies and research projects based on them. More information about participating in these studies can be found on the following pages.

      Studies in the HIV study laboratory

      HIV Incidence Surveillance of HIV (InzSurv-HIV)

      A variable length of time - often many years - can elapse between the HIV infection, which often goes unnoticed, and the time the diagnosis is made. However, the results of routine diagnostics do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the duration of the infection. With the help of serological test methods, it is possible to differentiate between recently acquired (recent) and long-standing (prevalent, chronic) HIV infections. The InzSurv-HIV has been carried out since 2008. Based on the German Infection Protection Act (IfSG, §§ 7, 13), this study aims to determine the proportion of recent (approx. < 6 months) HIV infections among new HIV diagnoses in order to identify risk groups and regions with an acutely high incidence of infection or a high number of delayed HIV diagnoses. [more]

      Integrated Genomic Surveillance of HIV (IGS-HIV, formerly MolSurv-HIV)

      Monitoring primary HIV resistance and HIV diversity in Germany is one of the official tasks of the Robert Koch Institute. For this purpose, resistance-relevant HIV genome areas have been sequenced since 2013 from a large proportion of newly diagnosed HIV patients who are not reported by name to the RKI, and a genotypic HIV resistance determination has been carried out. In addition, the type and subtype and, if appropriate, the recombinant form are determined from the HIV sequences. In more extensive analyses, HIV transmission clusters are identified and the German HIV epidemic is characterized phylodynamically and phylogeographically. Like the InzSurv-HIV, the integrated genomic surveillance of HIV is based on §§ 7, 13 IfSG. An automated near-real-time surveillance is currently being set up, which will make it possible to quickly identify and display dynamics in the spread of HIV. [more]

      HIV-1 Seroconverter Study

      Since 1997, the HIV-1 Seroconverter Study, as part of the extended HIV surveillance, has provided important information on the course of infection in people whose time of HIV infection can be narrowly defined using laboratory diagnostic parameters. Since then, the results have contributed to improving the care of people living with HIV in Germany. In this study, the participants are observed over a longer period of time, which allows important insights into the course of the disease and possible influencing factors to be gained. Furthermore, the study offers the possibility to identify epidemiological and clinical factors that influence the molecular evolution of HIV. [more]

      Research projects

      Based on the sample material from the studies of the HIV study laboratory, there are a large number of research projects that deal with issues outside of official duties. [more]

      Date: 22.01.2024

        Specialised laboratory for highly pathogenic bacteria

        Consultant Laboratories for Bacillus anthracis, Francisella tularensis, Yersinia pestis and human pathogenic Vibrio species

        Unit ZBS 2 investigates clinical samples and environmental materials of selected bacterial pathogens of the risk groups 2 and 3, in particular pathogens posing biological risks. ZBS 2 also hosts the Consultant Laboratories for Bacillus anthracis, Francisella tularensis, Yersinia pestis and human pathogenic Vibrio species.
        Please call us before you send in any samples.

        Akkreditierung ausgewählter Verfahren nach DAkkS

        Diagnostic range
        and anti­bio­gram*
        PCRAntigen/ anti­body de­tec­tionTyping and de­tec­tion of cholera toxin*
        Bacillus anthracis (anthrax, splenic fever) and other related anthrax pathogensxxx-
        Francisella tularensis (tularemia, rabbit fever)xxx-
        Yersinia pestis (plague)xxx*-
        Burkholderia mallei (maliasmus)xxx*-
        Burkholderia pseudomallei (melioidosis)xxx-
        Brucella spp. (brucellosis)xxx*-
        Coxiella burnetii (Q fever)-x--
        Vibrio cholerae (cholera)xx-x

        * No accredited test method

        Differential diagnoses can be made by using MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry (in co-operation with unit ZBS 6).


        Dr. Daniela Jacob

        Consultant Laboratories (Bacillus anthracis, Francisella tularensis, Yersinia pestis, human pathogenic Vibrio species)

        Date: 07.09.2023

          Specialised laboratory for highly pathogenic viruses

          After consultation with ZBS 1, clinical and environmental samples are investigated for selected viral pathogens belonging to the risk groups 2, 3 and 4. When sending samples, please observe the instructions in our sample accompanying form. Please make absolutely sure to include this completed form with the shipment of the sample

          VirusGenome detection1Antibody detection2
          Alkhumra virusx
          Chikungunya virusxx
          Dengue virusxx
          Ebola virusx
          Tick-borne meningoencephalitis (TBE) virus xx
          Yellow fever virusxx
          Hendra virus x
          Japanese encephalitis virus xx
          Crim Congo haemorrhagic fever virus xx
          Lassa virusx
          Marburg virusx
          Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) corona virusx
          Nipah virus xx
          Rift Valley fever virusxx
          Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) corona virusxx
          Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) corona virus 2 xx
          West Nile virusxx
          Zika virus xx

          1 Detection by using PCR and/or sequencing
          2 Detection by using ELISA and/or IFA; if necessary, neutralization test

          Date: 21.08.2023

            The BSL-4 laboratory at the Robert Koch Institute

            In February 2015, the RKI’s new laboratory and office building at Seestrasse was inaugurated. In its centre, the building also contains laboratories of the highest biosafety level 4, in which pathogens of the highest risk group such as Ebola, Marburg and Lassa viruses can be safely examined. The laboratories have their own air, power and water supply; multi-tiered security systems prevent pathogens from being released. In summer 2018, the BSL-4 laboratory has become fully operational. The Robert Koch Institute is the only federal institute in the field of human medicine with a BSL-4 laboratory in Germany.

            As a central institution for infection protection in Germany, the RKI conducts many diagnostic and experimental activities. In the event of an imported highly contagious disease, rapid diagnostics are necessary in order to be able to decide about isolation measures and treatment. The BSL-4 laboratory allows a safe handling of such patient samples. Furthermore, it enables the scientists to research highly pathogenic agents and their control in a targeted manner.

            More on RKI’s BSL-4 Laboratory


            Dr. Andreas Kurth
            030 18754 2323
            Dr. Andreas Kurth

            Date: 31.07.2018