Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hospital Hygiene

The Institute of Medical Microbiology is dedicated to the diagnosis and research of infectious diseases. This includes pathogen diagnostics using microscopic, tissue culture, serologic, immunologic, and molecular methods, among others, as well as the development of detection procedures for difficult to cultivate or non-cultivatable pathogens ranging from bacteria and fungi to parasites (such as worm diseases or malaria).

Medical professionals have had to fight against infectious diseases more and more over the last few years. This is due in part to a growing number of patients with weakened immune systems who contract serious illnesses as a result of new therapeutic methods, as well as to increasingly longer life expectancies. For such patients, normally harmless infections become life-threatening. The rise of tourism in remote areas of the world also contributes to a more frequent occurrence of tropical infections. Moreover, in recent years many pathogens that could once be countered successfully with antibiotics have become increasingly resistant to common medicines.

The Institute therefore places strong emphasis on research on host-pathogen interactions. Through modern procedures, the employees are studying which functions of the immune system are necessary to defend against pathogens that have been introduced into the system. The Institute partners with various national and international organizations in this field.

As a result of the combined specialized expertise, the applied diversity of methods, and the constant range of clinical microbiological services available, the Institute for Medical Microbiology has developed into an infectiologic reference center within the greater Duesseldorf area.

The Institute for Medical Microbiology was developed from the Institute for Medical Microbiology and Virology. Founded at the former Medical Academy, this Institute was one of the oldest institutions at Heinrich-Heine-University. A substantial body of research relating to malaria therapy has been completed at the Institute. Former Director Professor Kikuth made a key contribution to the development of the malaria therapy used today the world over.

Patient care

The core elements of clinical diagnostic microbiology are direct and indirect (serologic) detection and culture of pathogens. Practically all types of bodily tissue or material, including medicinal products, can be used as test specimens. In addition to the microscopic, tissue culture, and immunologic/serologic diagnostic techniques that have been developed for bacteria and parasites, molecular biological and biochemical methods (polymer chain reaction, real time PCR, hybridization, and Western Blot) are now routinely available.

These modern techniques supplement classical methods of bacteriology, offer greater sensitivity, and can be carried out in a very short time, allowing for faster start of specific therapies.

In addition to the direct method of diagnosis, infections can also be diagnosed by indirect methods. For indirect diagnosis, employees at the Institute cultivate the antibody production that generally occurs following infection, whereby the presence of pathogen-specific immunoglobulins serves as proof. This type of infectiologic diagnostics is summarized under the cover term Serology.

However, the analysis is not completed with the analysis and identification of a pathogen. Testing for antibiotic resistance and if applicable also an epidemiologic analysis follows. The activities of the physicians at the Institute include also clinical microbiologic consultancy with advise on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of infectious diseases.

Research and teaching

The research activities of the Institute encompass the pathopsychology of infectious diseases from the pathogen and the host sides. A central element of this research is the identification of the effector mechanisms of the congenital and acquired immune systems, functions of cytokines, as well as the investigation of virulence mechanisms of selected pathogens. In addition to basic research, the employees also conduct diverse projects related to documentation and analysis of the epidemiology of pathogens.

Microbiology, immunology, and infectiology make up mandatory courses in the curriculum for human medicine, dental medicine, and pharmacology. The requisite theoretical knowledge is transmitted in lectures reinforced by a series of practical exercises. The Institute is also involved with the instruction of students at the educational institutions and schools at the Heinrich-Heine-University Clinic in Duesseldorf, and conducts seminars relating to immunology and microbiology.

The Institute is engaged in the technical and scientific education of students in the fields of human medicine, dental medicine, pharmacology, and biology. In addition, the microbiology and infectiology curriculum is also taught within the scope of training for medical assistance and other healthcare professions (nursing and pediatric nursing).

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