Research | 27/01/2015

Infections as a Global Problem

Infections can have dramatic consequences worldwide – as the case of Ebola has shown. Within the research network INFECTIONS’21, fourteen Leibniz institutes are studying ways to better control, prevent and fight infectious illnesses.

Man in hazmat
© Reuters/Stringer
Man in hazmat
© Reuters/Stringer

Infectious illnesses are still a great challenge in the twenty-first century, but they aren’t just a purely medical problem: increasing mobility and migration and the inadequate availability of health care to some groups in society are just as important as the emergence of unknown pathogens or the increase in antibiotic resistance.

For this reason, fourteen Leibniz institutes and three external partners are studying strategies and mechanisms for controlling, fighting and preventing infectious illnesses within the newly founded interdisciplinary research network INFECTIONS’21 – Transmission Control of Infections in the 21st Century. The project aims to develop new and more effective strategies for treating and containing infectious illnesses, as well as early warning systems.

The GIGA (Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hein and Anna Paschke) and the University of Hamburg’s Political Science Department (Dr. Julian Eckl) are investigating the societal and political aspects. Which socio-economic factors enable the transmission and spread of infectious illnesses? Which control measures make sense? The GIGA is working closely with the GESIS (Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences) on these questions.

To begin with, the researchers want to interview experts such as street outreach workers and social workers from local initiatives and agencies in Hamburg, as well as members of so-called high-risk groups. The term high-risk groups refers, for example, to groups of people who do not have access to medical care due to inadequate language skills, economic position, or a lack of health insurance. The researchers also want to determine how dangerous the general population sees certain infectious illnesses as being.

The INFECTIONS’21 network has received €600,000 in funding from the Leibniz Association under the "strategic networking" line of funding. It began work in January 2015. The collaborative project is planned to last four years.

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