The research group ZooBoCo (Zoonotic Bornavirus Consortium) deals with the characterization of the newly discovered variegated squirrel bornavirus 1 (VSBV-1).


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Overall objective

Since its first description in 2015, four deaths were reported in Germany due to infection with the new variegated squirrel borna virus VSBV-1. This unexpected accumulation raises serious concerns about the transmissibility of VSBV-1 and related bornaviruses to humans and the pathogenic potential of these viruses. The exact number of squirrels or humans currently infected or exposed to potentially dangerous bornaviruses is unknown. It is therefore unclear whether the suirrels can transmit these viruses or whether there is another reservoir host that still needs to be identified. The research network will generate urgently needed data to better understand the zoonotic potential of these viruses, and their putative reservoir host species and transmission pathways. In addition, appropriate intervention strategies will be explored.

Aim 1: Understanding reservoirs, epidemiology and (molecular) biology of VSBV-1 to provide a model for novel zoonotic infections

Aim 2: Concepts for the use of Next-Generation Sequencing for metagenome diagnostics of zoonotic infections of the CNS: VSBV-1 as model for unresolved encephalitis cases

Aim 3: First evaluation of antiviral substances for their activity against VSBV-1 and other bornaviruses

Aim 4: Risk assessment: Model for public health authorities, including development of novel intervention concepts and adaptation of the legislation


Prof. Dr. Martin Beer
Institut für Virusdiagnostik
Email: martin.beer(at)fli.de
Tel.: +49 (0)38351 7 1200

Homepage (in German)


List of PIs


Prof. Dr. Martin Beer, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut

Dr. Jürgen Rissland, Universität Saarland, Institut für Virologie


PD Dr. Rainer G. Ulrich, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut

Dr. Bernd Hoffmann, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut


Dr. Dirk Höper, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut

Prof. Dr. Martin Beer, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut


Dr. Donata Hoffmann, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut

Prof. Dr. Christiane Herden, Justus-Liebig-Universität

Dr. Heinz Feldmann, National Institute of Allergy and Infection


Prof. Dr. Martin Schwemmle, Universitätsklinikum Freiburg

Dr. Dennis Rubbenstroth, Universitätsklinikum Freiburg


Prof. Dr. Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, Bernhard-Nocht-Institut für Tropenmedizin

Prof. Dr. Dennis Tappe, Bernhard-Nocht-Institut für Tropenmedizin

Dr. Timo Hohmeier-Bachmann, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut

Dr. Hendrik Wilking, Robert-Koch-Institut

Prof. Dr. Klaus Stark, Robert-Koch-Institut


Dr. Jürgen Rissland, Universität Saarland, Institut für Virologie


Further Cooperation

National Research Platform for Zoonoses