Vet Med Students 2010 Study Abroad in Germany

Vet Med Students 2010 Study Abroad in Germany

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  • Heading to Greifswald and the Isle of Riems! (June 14, 2010)

    Today, we left early in the morning  Destination: Greifswald and the Isle of Riems! After our drive and lunch at a local restaurant Waldeslust, we headed to the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI)  what would be equivalent to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) in the United States/Plum Island, Professor Thomas Mettenleiter, President of the Institute, greeted us and gave us a brief history on the Isle of Riems, the virus research conducted on the island, biosecurity issues, and on Friedrich Loefflers important discoveries (founder of the Institute).

    Click to enlargeThe Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute on the Isle of Riems was established in 1910 and is known as the world’s oldest virological research facility, founded by a German microbiologist, Friedrich Loeffler. After working in conjunction with Robert Koch, Loeffler began working at the University of Greifswald as a professor and Head of the Department of Hygiene in 1888.   One of the most recognized accomplishments of Loeffler was his 3 fundamental observations of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

    1. It is ultrafilterable and ultravisible
    2. Researchers could replicate the disease in vivo
    3. The agent of the disease had a corpuscular nature


    Click to enlargeHis discoveries were the first indication that “viruses” existed and began a new focus in research; virology.  After devastating transmission of FMD throughout the surrounding area of Greifswald, the Minister of Culture prohibited Loeffler from doing further research on FMD. However, Loeffler proposed that a research facility should be established on an island to minimize disease transmission and allow further investigations on infectious diseases. In 1910, Loeffler began work on the island of the Insel Riems when the first shipment of cows was transported to the island via boat.  Once World War I began, all research on the Insel Riems ceased. Loeffler worked for the army to implement proper hygiene regimens until his death in 1915. The Friedrich Loeffler Institute on the Isle of Riems is named in his honor.  Today, the health and welfare of livestock and protecting humans against infectious zoonotic diseases form the core of the research work performed at the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI). The institute conducts research into disciplines such as physiology, ethology, epidemiology, immunology, virology, bacteriology and parasitology – these departments and research laboratories are scattered across Germany. Currently, the Institute is under construction and when the over 300 million Euro facility is completed, it is expected to be the most up-to-date animal health research center in Europe. The Friedrich Loeffler Institute celebrates its 100th Anniversary on October 10th, 2010 with the opening of the new facility.

    Click to enlargeAfter Prof. Mettenleiter’s presentation and tour of the FLI facilities, we attended an infectious disease seminar presented to the Institute on the “Molecular Epidemiology of Recent Classical Swine Fever Outbreaks in German Wild Boars” by Dr. Sandra Blome.  Classical Swine Fever is a highly contagious and costly disease in domesticated pigs in the European Union. Wild boars appear to play an important role in the transmission of Classical swine fever (CSF) and control is a high priority among animal agriculture across the EU. Though little is known about CSF in the wild boar, they serve as a major risk for domestic pigs.  Pigs and wild boars are the only natural reservoir of classical swine fever virus and can infect each other through direct or indirect mechanisms. The virus can be transmitted by:

    1. Direct contact between animals (secretions, feces, semen, blood)
    2. nsufficiently cooked waste food fed to pigs
    3. Can be spread by veterinarians, livestock handlers, farm visitors
    4. Transplacental infections
    5. Indirect contact through premises, vehicles, instruments, needles, etc.


    Virus shedding can begin before clinical signs are observed and can occur in acute or subclinical disease forms. An infected sow may give birth to persistently infected piglets.  CSFV is fairly fragile in the environment, but can survive for long periods of time in refrigerated or frozen meat.  Vaccinations may be used as a tool to help control and prevent an outbreak, but controlling endemic infections in the wild boar populations is extremely difficult. Germany is currently trying to eradicate the disease through oral vaccination and intensified hunting strategies (which targets young female pigs in attempt to drastically decrease the population) to limit the economic impact within the country.  CSFV has been eradicated from the United States, but is still at risk for the re-introduction because it is still endemic in many parts of South and Central America.

    Click to enlargeFinally, we ended the night eating dinner in the middle of the historic Greifswald city center – Braugasthaus Zum Alten Fritz. This adorable restaurant serve culinary dishes from the region and display its shiny copper brewing vats in the middle of the restaurant. Great food and excellent desserts – Amazing!

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