Molecular Infection Biology

Gastrointestinal infections are counted among the most common types of infectious diseases worldwide. In particular in developing countries, diarrhoeal diseases are still a leading course of death. Indeveloped countries, diarrhoeal diseases are under better control, but they still represent a very common affliction, especially among children and the elderly. Among the most important bacterial pathogens of food-animal origin are Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, and enteropathogenic Yersinia species. Their primary route of transmission from animals to humans is through contaminated food. Once inside our bodies, they trigger an impressive range of different intestinal disorders from diarrhoea to acute infections of the small and large intestines – at times with severe consequences! Our primary focus is on Yersinia. We study the ways in which these bacteria adhere to the intestinal epithelium, penetrate it, and ultimately spread within the host.

Prof. Dr. Petra Dersch

“We are especially interested in the strategies how intestinal bacteria manage to colonize different host tissues and evade host immune responses. I am fascinated by the different kinds of sophisticated regulatory mechanisms that they use to influence the course of the infection.“ 

Petra Dersch studied biology in Ulm and Konstanz. She completed her doctoral work at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology and at University of Konstanz, and did her post-doc at Tufts Medical School, Boston, USA, where she worked with Prof. Dr. Ralph Isberg. Upon her return to Germany, Petra Dersch worked as a scientific assistant at the Free University Berlin and, since 2003, headed a junior research group at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin. In 2005, Petra Dersch habilitated in the field of microbiology. That same year, she accepted an Associate Professor position at the Technische Universität Braunschweig. Since 2008, she is also Chair of the Department of Molecular Infection Biology at the HZI. Her special research interest involves pathogenicity mechanisms and virulence genetic regulation of enteropathogenic bacteria, especially Yersinia.


  • Prof Dr Petra Dersch

    Petra Dersch

    Head of the Department Molecular Infection Biology

    +49 531 6181-5700

    +49 531 6181-5709


    CV and Publications


Audio Podcast

  • Bakterien mit Thermometer - Vom Kühlschrank in den Körper
    Yersinien machen uns Bauchschmerzen. Wenn wir die Bakterien mit verseuchtem Fleisch zu uns nehmen, infizieren sie unsere Darmzellen und vermehren sich. Aber wie wissen die Yersinien, dass sie nicht mehr in der vergammelten Wurst sind sondern in unserem Körper? Die Antwort ist simpel: Die Bakterien haben ein Thermometer. Hören Sie zu, wie das funktioniert...