The interdisciplinary research consortium RoBoPub aims to create the necessary knowledge base on the epidemiology of two rodent-transmitted zoonotic agents, hantaviruses and Leptospira, and to translate the generated knowledge into public health measures.

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OneHealth-based enhancement of public health by a better understanding of the epidemiology of rodent-transmitted diseases

Hantaviruses and Leptospira will be investigated in parallel in the joint research project, as there are similarities between reservoirs, transmission pathways, the diseases they cause and their symptoms. Further parallelities exist with regard to the seasonality of their occurrence, the seroprevalence in risk groups, underreporting as well as the awareness of general practitioners. We therefore expect considerable synergies through collaboration and in the resulting preventive measures. Within the framework of this synergistic OneHealth initiative, the pathogen-, rodent-related and environmental aspects of pathogen transmission as well as the manifestation and diagnosis of human disease are to be investigated. Furthermore, the importance of risk factors, social aspects of raising awareness and risk perception of the population and of general practitioners will be examined. The ultimate aim is to translate the findings into a risk assessment and the development of risk maps, early warning modules, risk management plans and health recommendations and their dissemination in the population and particularly affected groups of people with the involvement of the public health service and of veterinary and human medicine.

Aim 1:  Spatial distribution and temporal oscillation of Puumala hantavirus (PUUV) in bank vole populations and Leptospira kirschneri in common vole and bank vole populations.

Aim 2:  Tenacity, virulence and host adaptation of PUUV and Leptospira spp.

Aim 3:  PUUV and Leptospira seroprevalence in different human cohorts and its association with risk factors.

Aim 4:  Identification of ecological factors and models for pathogen prevalence/incidence.

Aim 5:  Raising the awareness of general practitioners and the risk perception of risk groups and the general population.

Aim 6:  OneHealth approach: Translation of the generated knowledge on pathogen epidemiology into public health measures.

Key research topics

Research work includes the following key topics (KT):

KT1 Pathogen geography

In KT1, mapping of the current distribution and assessment of a potential further spread of PUUV in bank vole populations of the western genetic lineage shall be carried out by investigating bank voles along transects through Lower Saxony/North Rhine-Westphalia and Thuringia. Furthermore, the geographical distribution of Leptospira kirschneri in common voles of different locations in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia will be investigated.


KT2 Stability and host association

KT2 Stability and host association

For both pathogens, studies on the stability of field strains/isolates and samples as well as on experimental virulence identification and studies on the susceptibility of cell lines of different genetic lineages of bank voles for PUUV will be performed.

KT3 Epidemiology

The reservoir and pathogen studies in KT1 and KT2 will be accompanied by studies on the prevalence of PUUV (and possibly other hantaviruses) and Leptospira in the general population and in risk groups, i.e. forest workers and strawberry pickers. In addition to investigating the seroprevalence, these studies focus on the association between serostatus and risk factors and between serostatus and knowledge and application of preventive measures. In addition, information on the proportion of asymptomatic and possibly symptomatic but not correctly diagnosed diseases will be collected.

KT4 Models and host dynamics

In KT4, the results of field and in vitro studies will be translated into an early warning model for outbreaks in bank vole and common vole populations, and early warning modules for the increased incidence of human PUUV and Leptospira infections will be developed.


KT5 Risk perception and raising awareness

The predictive power of comprehensive modelling approaches increases continuously. These approaches can therefore be used to identify future endemic areas. In these new and emerging areas for hantavirus and Leptospira diseases, guideline-based interviews with experts (general practitioners, public health services and interest groups) will be conducted. Focus group discussions with the general population will be conducted in existing and new endemic areas. Based on the generated knowledge, suitable risk communication strategies for the population and general practitioners will be developed.


KT6 Public Health Translation

KT6 translates the results of all other KTs into risk maps, early warning modules and a risk management plan for the public health service at local, state and federal levels. During the three-year funding period, the prototypes for risk maps and early warning modules as well as the concept for the risk management plan will be developed. Throughout the project, there will be interaction with all sub-projects in order to communicate the findings to decision-makers, interest groups, risk groups, general practitioners and the general population in an appropriate and timely manner, with the involvement of the public health service.


PD Dr. Rainer G. Ulrich, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI), Institute of Novel and Emerging Infectious Diseases, Greifswald – Insel Riems


Phone: +49 3835 17 1159


Dr. Johannes Dreesman, Governmental Institute of Public Health of Lower Saxony (NLGA),

Roesebeckstrasse 4-6, 30449 Hannover


Phone: +49 511 4505 200

Cooperation within the consortium

Work on the individual key topics will be done in close cooperation between the different sub-Projects.

List of sub-project leaders

TV1     Rainer G. Ulrich, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI)

TV2     Anne Mayer-Scholl, Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)


TV3     Jens Jacob, Julius Kühn-Institute (JKI)


TV4     Martin Runge, Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (LAVES)


TV5     Sabrina Weiß, Charité University Medicine Campus Mitte (CCM) and Prof. Jörg Hofmann, National Consiliary Laboratory for Hantaviruses


TV6     Martin Pfeffer, Institute of Animal Hygiene and Veterinary Public Health, University Leipzig (UL)


TV7     Kerstin Dressel, South German Institute of Empirical Social Research e.V. (SINE)


TV8     Johannes Dreesman, Governmental Institute of Public Health of Lower Saxony      (NLGA)


Cooperation beyond the consortium

Two public health service projects in Baden-Wuerttemberg funded by the Research Network Zoonotic Infectious Diseases are in close contact with the RoBoPub Consortium and are to be supported by the Hantavirus groups within the RoBoPub Consortium.


A network project between the RoBoPub consortium and the ZooBoCo, Q-Gaps and TBENAGER consortia intends to enable synergistic processing of all collected small mammal samples and thus an evaluation of the distribution of the individual zoonotic agents beyond the individual networks.