Pathogenesis of measles and other Morbilliviruses, Infection of the central nervous system (CNS), and species-specificity of the infection.
Measles virus (MV) belongs with canine distemper virus (CDV) and some other mammalian viruses to the genus Morbillivirus of the family Paramyxoviridae. Measles is not a „simple“ children’s disease, but can cause a number of complications from diarrhoea, pneumonia, blindness, up to lethal encephalitis. Worldwide, more than 100.000 children die every year due to measles. Since an effective vaccine is available, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the aim to eradicate measles, which however, due to socioeconomic problems, will not be easily achieved.
Aims of the working group are to investigate the molecular basis of the tropism and virulence of measles and canine distemper virus. The receptor usage and mechanisms of virus uptake, and possibilities of infection inhibition by chemical compounds and short interfering (si)RNAs have been investigated. A mouse model of persistent measles virus infection of the CNS, which partially models the human disease subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), was used to analyse the dependency of the infection on the adaptive immune response and regulatory T cells. Further mechanisms influencing the infection such as alterations in the cell membrane and intracellular host factors as intrinsic factors or as part of the innate immune response are being investigated.