Integrative Parasitology and Zoophysiology (IPZ)

Parasites and pathogens (e.g. viruses, bacteria) are integral parts of every ecosystems and recent studies estimate that about 40% of all organisms show at least temporarily, a parasitic lifestyle. The survival of such species under changing abiotic and biotic (e.g. climatic) conditions depends on both the physiological capacity to adapt by regulating the transcription of relevant genes and the evolutionary adaptability mediated by the presence of functional variants of important genes.

In this context, abiotic and biotic changes influence the diversity, distribution and abundance of pathogens, parasites, disease vectors and reservoir hosts, the direct and indirect consequences for the health of humans and animals may have dramatic humanitarian, ecological and economic impacts.

To address these problems, the scientist of the department study the genetic and species diversity of medically relevant animals and their area and population dynamics, ecology, life cycles and transmission mechanisms using a broad spectrum of methods from specimen-based taxonomy and proteomic, transcriptomic and genomic analyses to advanced phylogeographic and niche modelling approaches. Reflecting the highly divergent state of current knowledge on the global diversity of medically important organisms, key topics in this research topic include, among others: (a) the identification and description of new and emerging pathogens, protozoan and metazoan parasites, vectors and reservoir hosts and their present distributions, (b) the phenotypic and genetic evolution of their dispersal capabilities and climatic tolerance, (c) the investigation of factors for pathogenicity, vectorial and intermediate host abilities, both in laboratory experiments and in the field, and (d) risk assessments and predictive modelling of distributions under global and regional models of climate change. Thereby, the fundamental and applied research of our department will inform public health planners and the general public on aspects of control, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, parasites and other pathogens that are caused or transmitted by animals.