Epidemiology conducts research on health and disease at the population level – infection epidemiology is concerned with contagious diseases. Their tools and methods are systematic queries, clinical examinations and laboratory diagnostic documentation for both healthy and afflicted individuals, as well as statistical analysis of the compiled data. Causes and risk factors for infections can thus be identified.

Infectious diseases epidemiology contributes to the development of preventive measures, early detection and therapy for diseases. Moreover, it examines the efficacy of such measures. Thus epidemiology ties in with scientific findings in basic research as well as medicine, and examines these processes at the population level.

Epidemiological lab

One of the top priorities of the department of epidemiology is to analyse infectious diseases and their risk factors on a population based scale. One could assess infections and the vaccination status of individuals using a symptom based approach, making use of questionnaire based tools. Our epidemiologic laboratory proposes to use other means, independent of the ability to recall past events correctly; detecting pathogens and markers of previous infections in bio samples like nasal swabs, feces, sputum and blood of subjects.

iPlex Technology from Sequenom

In order to model how a wave of influenza infection spreads, we measure the duration of viral colonization of the nares. The longer the virus is shed, the more people could infected should one sneeze. To analyse influenza colonization of the nose, we look for the viral genome in a nasal swab using a new mass spectrometry based technique called iPlex from Sequenom.

Furthermore, we are involved in analysing the propagation of antibiotic resistant pathogens like Methicillin resistant S.aureus (MRSA). In a Brunswick based study (s-swab study) people were asked to send in monthly nasal swabs. The swabs were subsequently analysed for bacterial growth on culture plates with and without certain antibiotics.

Streakingof the nasal swab on blood agar

We are also working on measuring specific antibodies against pathogens in the blood to detect past infections. This would be helpful in determining the effectivity and ultimately, the necessity  of vaccinations. We use a technique called multiplex serologie (Waterboer T. et al. Clin Chem. 2005) which requires  very small amounts (microliters) of serum, enables one to test multiple samples at the same time, and  is able to detect antibodies against many different pathogens.






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