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Research Profile

GRK2046 projects overview

GRK2046 projects overview
Image Credit: Diane Schad (Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology)

With a steady increase due to drug resistance, global warming and increasing international travel, parasitic diseases are distributed world-wide in human and animal populations. The RTG aims to install a cutting edge and integrative curriculum to educate “next-generation” parasitologists. In an interdisciplinary approach, graduates are trained in molecular approaches, cellular interactions and organismic studies on key parasites of model organisms, free-ranging animals and humans. The research topics focus on four parasite groups: Plasmodium, Toxoplasma, Giardia and helminths. In accordance with the “One Health” concept the different parasite infections are studied from the biological, medical, and translational perspectives.

The focal study areas of the RTG 2046, with respect to host organisms, include model organisms as well as different wildlife species in addition to humans and domestic animals. The scientific projects focus on four groups of parasites.

  1. Infections with Plasmodium: this pathogen causes malaria, which is one of the most serious parasitic diseases in the poorest countries of the world, with an estimated 0.7 - 1 million annual deaths, primarily in young children.
  2. Toxoplasma gondii: an opportunistic pathogen with a worldwide distribution, infecting more than one third of the world population.
  3. We concentrate on Giardia duodenalis, an intestinal protozoan parasite that causes one of the most prevalent parasite infections worldwide.
  4. We also tackle intestinal helminth species inducing chronic disabling diseases, which infect animals and humans alike and cause billions of infections worldwide.

In addition, co-infections are studied representing the most common form of parasite infection in wildlife and domestic animal populations.

We have structured the RTG research topics into three domains:

(A) molecular approaches to dissect signaling pathways and metabolic regulation;
(B) cellular interactions of parasites with host immune- and non-immune cells in different body compartments including blood, gut and/or skin, and
(C) the impact of parasites on the organism, through studies of wildlife populations in their natural environment as compared to domestic populations.

A comprehensive view of the four focus parasitic diseases is achieved by studying each parasite-host system at the molecular, cellular and organismic level. Hence, we aim to examine parasite infections from a variety of angles to achieve a broad view of parasites with respect to human and animal health.

Graduate students benefit substantially by gaining insights into parasite infections from the diverse Faculty of veterinarians, biologists and medical doctors and are thereby also exposed to different career models.

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