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Canada: Riems: The most dangerous pathogens are being researched on the isolated German laboratory island - including SARS-CoV-2

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More than 100 years ago, the scientist Friedrich Loeffler began researching viruses and infectious diseases. The doctor is considered to be the first to set up a virological research institute worldwide - on the island of Riems, which lies in a shallow spur of the Baltic Sea between the mainland and the island of Rügen. At that time, the institute on the 1250 meter long and 300 meter long island consisted of stalls for twelve cattle and a few pigs, as well as a small laboratory. Today it is a high-security area that normal mortals do not see.

Several institutes belong to the research facility on the island of Riems, for example the Institute for Infection Medicine or the Institute for International Animal Health . Animal diseases in particular are researched in this remote location - because they can also be very dangerous for humans. The aim of the researchers is to understand the pathogens and develop vaccines that can curb the spread of the disease. The FLI also issues vaccination recommendations for small animals and farm animals, and is responsible for assessing the risk of animal diseases such as avian influenza in Germany.

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Who was Friedrich Loeffler?

Friedrich August Johannes Loeffler lived from 1852 to 1915. He was studied medicine , who was particularly concerned with hygiene and bacteria. Loeffler discovered various pathogens for infectious diseases such as snot (this infection affects the mucous membranes, skin and internal organs of horses and donkeys) or diphtheria (a respiratory disease that mainly occurs in childhood).

He also described the pathogen causing foot and mouth disease (FMD). Together with his colleague Paul Frosch, Loeffler discovered that the pathogen was even smaller than a bacterium - we now know that it was a virus. Loeffler is therefore also considered a co-founder of virology.

The doctor was researching this pathogen in his laboratory, which was initially located at the University of Greifswald. However, this led to massive problems: the virus spread several times as a result. Whole herds of animals fell ill with the disease around Greifswald .

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The Prussian government therefore urged Loeffler to work in a somewhat more remote location in order to minimize this risk. In 1910 he founded the world's first virological research institute on the island of Riems. Three years later Loeffler was appointed head of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin. The institute has a high-security laboratory Even today, the

Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI)

is the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health responsible for monitoring and researching animal diseases. 450 employees work in the fully secured institute: Everything is cordoned off, there are high fences with barbed wire. Nothing and nobody is allowed in here who is not authorized to do so - and especially not out. Because anyone who works here deals with some of the most dangerous and contagious pathogens in the world, such as rabies, BSE (also known as mad cow disease) and Ebola.

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Animal experiments are also part of the work. Riems is home to one of only three high-security laboratories in the world in which dangerous viruses are tested directly on animals. The aim is to develop a vaccine against the diseases. Veterinarian Anne Balkema-Buschmann

explained to ZDF:

"Our aim here is that the whole thing is carried out for the welfare of the animals. That may sound like a paradox. But if we do a study with vaccines here, it will ultimately help many, many other conspecifics. " Research on the novel coronavirus is also carried out here. Research on the

novel coronavirus

is also supported here. In April 2020, the institute researched which animal species SARS-CoV-2 can infect. While the pathogen could not harm pigs and chickens, flying foxes and ferrets became infected. ferrets can be used as "model animals for the infection of humans for testing vaccines or drugs", so the institute in the

press release

. And so, in another study, a prototype vector vaccine was administered to ferrets. In connection with the study, no animal was sick or died, the institute announced. The exact results will be published soon.

Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, aerial view, Riems Island, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany © Holger Weitzel / getty images Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, aerial view, Riems Island, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany

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