Greifswald (dpa) - According to the President of the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI), animal diseases from abroad are increasingly coming to Germany.

Many of the animal diseases naturally occurring in this country have been eradicated over the past 30 to 50 years, said Thomas Mettenleiter of the German Press Agency.

"But then we increasingly have to expect entries from outside."

The African swine fever, the bird flu or the West Nile fever are examples.

Forerunners of the bird flu viruses that finally landed in Germany probably formed in Siberia.

The African swine fever is now more of a Eurasian swine fever and has recently spread from Georgia.


"The work of the institute has changed significantly in recent years," said Mettenleiter.

The spectrum of pathogens to be researched has become “international” and broader.

"So that we can at least be reasonably prepared for anything halfway conceivable."

As a federal research institute for animal health, the FLI, headquartered on the island of Riems near Greifswald, has two main research areas: on the one hand, the health and well-being of farm animals from chickens to cattle, and on the other hand, the protection of humans from zoonoses.

These are infections that can be transmitted between animals and humans - such as Sars-CoV-2.

When new pathogens appear, climate change also plays a role, for example if new carriers can survive here because of warmer temperatures.

For example, the Japanese bush mosquito or the Asian tiger mosquito, which would have settled in Germany.

"Both can transmit infections that have not occurred in Germany at least so far," said Mettenleiter.

These include the Zika or Chikungunya viruses.

In many cases, the specific influence of climate change on individual pathogens is not yet clear.

"But we see that the habitats of carriers are changing."


Zoonoses like Sars-CoV-2 have always existed, said Mettenleiter.

If you look at the numbers, however, it seems as if there have been more such pathogens from animals to humans lately.

According to Mettenleiter, this may be due to the growing world population, which is currently around eight billion people.

“That's a huge population of potential hosts for such pathogens”.

This would increase the “purely statistical” number of contacts between humans and animals and thus the probability of skipping.

According to Mettenleiter, the penetration of humans into habitats that were previously reserved for animals probably also plays a role.

"And then of course the way people live."

Sars-CoV-2 was noticed in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Urbanization certainly has an important influence on the spread of such pathogens.

"Then of course globalization comes along, and then the whole thing happens a lot faster than we have seen in the past."

For Mettenleiter, bats are still the most likely natural reservoir of origin for Sars-CoV-2.

It is not yet known whether there was an intermediate host.

It is believed that the causative agent of the lung disease Covid-19 spread to humans at a wildlife market in Wuhan.


© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210127-99-185670 / 2

Friedrich Loeffler Institute