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Institute of Virology


Respiratory tract infections



Acute lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI) are caused by a wide variety of viral as well as bacterial pathogens and constitute a significant cause of morbidity, mortality and antibiotic use worldwide. Treatment and patient management is often based on clinical judgement or on a limited number of laboratory data. Current guidelines for paediatric and adult patients recommend antibiotic treatment in patients hospitalized with acute LRTI or with pneumonia. However, up to 45% of LRTI in adults and up to 87% in children are of viral origin. Viral and bacterial infections are clinically indistinguishable.

Novel molecular methods have significantly improved detection rates of acute LRTI pathogens and outperform conventional diagnostic methods. However, for LRTI with at least 20 possible pathogens, it turned out that carrying out a sequential PCR individual testing is not a feasible approach. Multiplex PCR methods, in which up to 25 pathogens can be detected in parallel, are possible solutions.

We focus on the implementation and evaluation of novel multiplex PCR for the sensitive detection of viral and bacterial pathogens causing LRTI. We use these methods to describe and better understand the epidemiology of viral LRTI. In addition, we use these tools to detect influenza-associated nosocomial infections.


Figure: Combined distribution of influenza A (top panel) and influenza B (bottom panel) at the four study sites in comparison to influenza cases in whole Germany as notified by the mandatory reporting system and reported by the Robert-Koch-Institute (RKI; indicated by gray columns) (Heyd et al. 2016, Infection)


Selected publications from our group:

  1. Heyd R, Eis-Hubinger AM, Berger A, Bierbaum S, Pietzonka S, Wenzel JJ, Huzly D, Keppler OT, Panning M. (2017). Retrospective analysis of clinical and virological parameters of influenza cases at four university hospitals in Germany, 2015. Infection 45:349-354.
  2. Huzly, D., K. Korn, S. Bierbaum, B. Eberle, V. Falcone, A. Knoll, P. Steininger and M. Panning (2016). "Influenza A virus drift variants reduced the detection sensitivity of a commercial multiplex nucleic acid amplification assay in the season 2014/15." Arch Virol.
  3. Annan, A., F. Ebach, V. M. Corman, R. Krumkamp, Y. Adu-Sarkodie, A. M. Eis-Hubinger, T. Kruppa, A. Simon, J. May, J. Evans, M. Panning, C. Drosten and J. F. Drexler (2016). "Similar virus spectra and seasonality in paediatric patients with acute respiratory disease, Ghana and Germany." Clin Microbiol Infect 22(4): 340-346.
  4. Huzly, D., S. Kurz, W. Ebner, M. Dettenkofer and M. Panning (2015). "Characterisation of nosocomial and community-acquired influenza in a large university hospital during two consecutive influenza seasons." Journal of Clinical Virology 73: 47-51.


  • CAPNETZ Stiftung, Hannover

Institute of Virology

Hermann-Herder-Strasse 11
D-79104 Freiburg


Prof. Dr. med. Hartmut Hengel

Team Leader:

Marcus Panning
(Dr. med., Professor)
Phone: +49 761 203 6610
Fax: +49 761 203 6603