Internal Medicine - Infectious Diseases
Focus of research
Innate and adaptive immune responses in vector-borne diseases and Lyme borreliosis in particular.
Ticks require a bloodmeal to reproduce, during which they not only transmit Borrelia burgdorferi - the causative agent of Lyme borreliosis -, but also introduce physiologically active proteins into the host skin. These proteins inhibit blood coagulation and suppress local host immune responses, which facilitates both tick feeding as well as B. burgdorferi infection. Identification of the molecular mechanisms involved in immunosuppression induced by tick salivary proteins contributes to the understanding of the pathogenesis of Lyme borreliosis and could lead to the development of novel anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive agents. In addition, interfering with tick-host-pathogen interactions, for example by an anti-tick vaccin based on specific tick (salivary) proteins, could prevent transmission of B. burgdorferi from the tick to the host.