The team and its role within CYSTINET-Africa

The Germany II team is based at the university hospital (Klinikum rechts der Isar) of the Technical University of Munich (TUM). The TUM’s university hospital is one of the first Universities of Excellence in Germany and covers the entire spectrum of modern medicine. With the close cooperation between medical care and research, new scientific discoveries can be rapidly incorporated into patient care and therapies at an early stage. The research group headed by Prof. Prazeres da Costa from the Institute for Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Hygiene (MIH) is located at the hospital campus. The main research interest of the group is the understanding of host-parasite interaction and the host’s immunomodulation induced by multicellular parasites to ensure survival and reproduction. Due to its immunological research focus heavily based on basic research, the group has taken the lead in tackling the immunological questions within the consortium. The research agenda thus covers everything from assay development to analysis of immune responses during and after anti-helminthic intervention. The MIH itself has broad core facilities devoted to cutting-edge research in infections with bacteria, viruses and helminths as well as cancer treatment and allergies. This will allow Germany II to foster the implementation of modern experimental techniques into the epidemiological studies, the expansion of local capacity and the development of a strong relationship at the academic level for sustainable future collaborations. An example is the study planned in Mozambique on Taenia solium cysticercosis/taeniosis (TSCT) and neurocysticercosis (NCC) and its related immunological pathomechanisms. The effects of the pork tapeworm on the immune system of infected patients are largely unknown. “We do not yet understand why these complex organisms with their own metabolism trigger practically no immune response as long as they are alive, but can do so after dying, for example after treatment with medication,” comments Prof. Prazeres da Costa. “Our hypothesis is that the larvae actively suppress the immune response, both directly through parasite proteins, as well as by using the body’s own suppressor cells.” To gain more insight into this critical point, Germany II has been assigned three main objectives that it will tackle, together with the expertise of its cooperation with the other teams in the consortium.

The objectives of the team

  1. Estimation of the prevalence of TSCT/NCC among people with T. solium cysticercosis or neurological symptoms in northern Mozambique
  2. Association of immunological parameters with clinical and radiological characteristics of NCC
  3. Evaluation of immune responses among people with symptomatic NCC after initiation of standard anti-helminthic treatment

Prof. Clarissa Prazeres da Costa
Principal investigator
Prof. Dr. med. Clarissa Prazeres da Costa is an experienced microbiologist/parasitologist, lecturer and professor of immunology. She has more than 10 year-experience of working in the field of immunobiology of chronic helminth infections and allergies using primarily experimental models but recently also investigating human immune responses in co-infected individuals with schistosomiasis and hepatitis C. During the last years, she spearheaded basic research into subsets of T helper cells in controlling the immunopathology against schistosomiasis and their suppressive role during allergic immune responses in the host. Recently, she made a crucial mark in the field by discovering that maternal immune responses directed against the helminth influence the development of allergic immune responses in the offspring. Her investigations and their impact in the field have been internationally recognized. Her technical knowledge will be of great benefit to all immunological and experimental aspects of this collaborative project.
Institute for Microbiology
Dr. Fabien Ulrich Prodjinotho
Postdoctoral fellow and project coordinator
Dr. Prodjinotho completed his Master and Postgraduate degrees respectively on the cellular and humoral markers in relation with diabetes and helminth infections (University of Abomey-Calavi (Benin)) and the relevance of the use of active molecules from medicinal plants against helminth infections (University of Lomé (Togo)). Thereafter, he was involved as research assistant from 2010 to 2012, in projects analyzing traditional diagnostic tools and immunological factors associated with persistence of helminth infections in Benin and Togo. In 2013, he moved to Germany for a PhD in Immunology and Parasitology, which he completed in January 2017 at the University Clinic of Bonn with a focus on the regulation of effector immune mechanisms during helminth infections and the particular role of the antibody IgG4. His passion and commitment as well as his strong background in immunology and parasitology will make a valuable contribution to this project.
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