Immunity in the Lung: Pathogen Sensing and Host Response during Pneumonia
Respiratory tract infections represent the third leading cause of death worldwide. Community-acquired pneumonias are caused by e.g. Streptococcus pneumoniae as well as atypical intracellular bacteria such as Legionella pneumophila, whereas gram-negative multidrug-resistant bacteria are often found as causing agents in hospital-acquired pneumonias. An appropriate immune response that fights the invading microbes is vital for preserving organ function (on-going gas exchange). However, an overwhelming, often locally not restricted, inflammation can also lead to tissue damage (acute lung injury, acute respiratory distress syndrome), which is associated with high lethality.
We are studying how the immune system senses infection, how it defends the host against extracellular and intracellular bacteria, and how it is regulated by endogenous and exogenous signals. We focus on infections with bacterial pathogens causing pneumonia including S. pneumoniae, L. pneumophila, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Klebsiella pneumoniae, and employ different in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro infection models. In the long run, our research aims at contributing to the development of new strategies for the prevention and treatment of bacterial pneumonia in general and of infections with multi-drug resistant bacteria in particular.