Priority Research Area Infections

Microbial Interface Biology

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PD Dr. Norbert Reiling
PD Dr. Norbert Reiling
04537 / 188-4860
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“All you have to do is breathe.” -  Infection with the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB), Mycobacterium tuberculosis, usually occurs through the air by inhalation of pathogen-containing aerosols from an infected person who coughs, sneezes, or talks. After inhalation, the pathogenic bacteria come into contact with alveolar macrophages in the lungs. Whether these cells are able to kill the bacteria depends primarily on processes that occur at the interface between M. tuberculosis and the macrophage. This points directly to the research focus of the Microbial Interface Biology Research Group (RG): the detailed characterization of the interaction of primary macrophages with pathogenic strains of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC). Several new methods developed in the RG are used to isolate and characterize intracellular compartments of infected macrophages (phagosomes, macropinosomes, and lipid bodies). In addition, the RG has developed several assay systems for the rapid identification of new anti-mycobacterial agents. The discovery of truly new chemical entities with activity against MTBC strains is urgently needed because the treatment of TB requires a combination of antibiotics over several months, a strategy that is becoming increasingly complicated in times of increasing numbers of multidrug-resistant M. tuberculosis isolates. In addition, it is our goal to identify, decipher and modulate the signaling pathways induced by M. tuberculosis in its main host cell to limit the growth of the bacteria in the cells. The latter is a first and important step in the development of adjunct host-directed therapies for the treatment of pulmonary TB. This approach is of advantage since it does not bear the risk of resistance development of the bacteria. In this context, the analysis and modulation of lipid metabolism in the interaction between host cell and pathogen is an important research focus of the group. In recent years, the RG has been instrumental in several patent applications involving novel antifungal or anti-inflammatory strategies. Thus, the RG's basic science-oriented work has a clear translational perspective.