Epidemiologist Gérard Krause to head new department at HZI

Using statistics-data to combat pathogens: Long-term studies targeted to improve protection from infections

Gerard KrauseHow infectious diseases spread throughout the population and how one can take countermeasures against this dissemination: these issues are a source of concern for Prof. Gérard Krause, one of the leading epidemiologists in Germany. Krause, who is employed as an expert at the Robert-Koch-Institute (RKI) in Berlin, will also supervise new scientific projects from now on in Braunschweig und Hanover. His goal:  to get to the bottom of the dissemination and progression issues concerning infectious diseases by means of cohort studies. For this purpose, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig has appointed Krause to be head of a recently-established department. At the same time, he will also work as professor for infection epidemiology at the Hanover Medical School (MHH). Krause will continue his activities as Department Head at RKI


Krause will work on fundamental issues concerning epidemic progression and the respective impact on the population. His department “Epidemiology” seeks to build, with their findings, a solid basis for concrete recommendations regarding vaccinations, concepts for hygiene within the hospital, measures for food safety, as well as protection against infection in public health service.


For example, as Chief Infection Epidemiologist at the Robert-Koch Institute (RKI), Krause investigated the origins of the EHEC outbreak in the early summer of 2011 and was able to identify consumption of bean sprouts as the source of the infection. “Our work consists primarily of evaluations of standardised questionnaires, clinical examinations and laboratory proofs, with the aid of statistical procedures”, explains Krause. “Ideally, one can retrace pathogens back to the source of their outbreak, characterise dissemination patterns, recognise risk factors and measure the effectiveness of preventive measures”.


The pathogens we examine are diverse and range from viruses like influenza, which involve the respiratory passages, to bacteria such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which are resistant against many antibiotics. 


The HZI has at their disposal a broad spectrum of expert human resources to conduct research on both the underlying mechanisms of these diseases at the level of the pathogens, and on the organisms affected by these pathogens. New research projects with an epidemiological approach are thus formed to reveal, for example, the dissemination characteristics of pathogens and the risk factors for certain population groups. In combination with pre-existing HZI scientific insights regarding pathogens and their infection mechanisms, the scientists provide new epidemiological methods and models from studies. “Here at HZI, I can, in collaboration with my colleagues, conduct a systematic search for answers to questions that we encounter again and again in our practical tasks at the RKI”, says Krause. “The molecular- epidemiological laboratory in the new department will assure a smooth transition between our different research methods.”


A primary focus for the new department “Epidemiology” will be a large-scale cohort study of the Helmholtz Association and other research facilities, in which 200,000 individuals throughout Germany will be examined on a regular basis over several decades. With the help of new findings, evaluations will be made regarding which factors increase infection risks, what kind of delayed reactions certain infections have and how these can be avoided. 


“I am pleased to see that we have been able to complement, so appropriately, the expertise of the HZI with the efforts of such an outstanding scientist as Gérard Krause”, says Prof. Dirk Heinz, Acting Scientific Executive Director of the HZI. And Prof. Reinhard Burger, President of the Robert-Koch-Institute adds: “We are expecting many new insights from this special form of cooperation. Basic research at HZI and the practice-based epidemiology at the RKI are able to mutually inspire one another, thus generating new approaches.”


Gérard Krause studied Medicine at the University of Mainz and received in 1993 his Doctor of Medicine diploma in tropical hygiene. From 1993 to 1998 he worked as medical practitioner and scientific co-worker in the areas of Tropical Medicine, Internal Medicine and Hospital Hygiene at the University Clinic Heidelberg, a hospital in Osnabrück and the University of Freiberg. He had various research and training experiences in England, Ecuador, Columbia, Burkina Faso and Nigeria and was employed as Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, USA. In 2000 he came to the RKI in Berlin, where he supervised the subject area Surveillance and has been Head of the Department Infection Epidemiology since 2005. In the same year, he was promoted to Professor in the subject area Epidemiology and Hygiene at the Charité in Berlin. In 2008 he founded the Master’s study programme for Applied Epidemiology at the Charité. Gérard Krause is a specialist medical practitioner in tropical medicine and emergency medicine.


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