Vet Med Students 2011 Study Abroad in Germany

Vet Med Students 2011 Study Abroad in Germany

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  • Day 8: Greifswald, May 23, 2011

    We reach Greifswald and spend about 45 minutes browsing shops in the cute square in the center of the city. On the way back to the vans we walk past the Greifswald harbor museum. More than 45 ships are anchored along the harbor, many of which are still functional. We stop for lunch at Waldeslust, a hotel on the way to the Island of Riems. I eat Salatteller “Waldeslust” which was the most interesting chicken salad I’ve ever had. The chicken was covered with a curry sauce which was not expected at all. The lettuce was topped off with pineapple, cucumbers, grapes, radishes, tomatoes, bananas, mushrooms and a yogurt dressing. Asparagus is in season this time of year so the remaining members of my table ordered the asparagus salad and a plate of assorted meats and cheeses. After we filled our bellies our journey continued to the Island of Riems.

    The Friedrich Loeffler Institue (FLI) is the equivalent of Plum Island in the United States. The President of the Institute, Professor Thomas Mettenleiter, met us at FLI’s front gate and gave us a lecture on the history of the island and then took us around for a tour. In 1910, the Friedrich Loeffler Institute was established on the Island of Riems. It is the oldest virological research facility and was founded for the purpose of virus research. In addition to viruses, the institute now also works on bacterial, parasitic, and prion disease research.

    Friedrich Loeffler, a German bacteriologist, is well known for his discovery of causative agents of several bacterial diseases;

    1882—discribed causative agent of Glanders
    1884—discribed causative agent of diphtheria
    1989—discribed causative agent of porcine erysipelas.

    In 1898, while working with Paul Frosch, Friedrich Loeffler described the causative agent of foot and mouth disease. Loeffler took lymph and blood and pressed it through filters used to separate out bacteria. The “ultrafilterable”, which is the term used to describe the material left after it’s been filtered, was then injected into animals. Animals were showing illness after this process and continued to show illness even when filtered multiple times. The agent was then passed through an even finer filter made of china and disease was still found in the animals injected with the agent. These same results were found by two other scientists, Ivanovski and Beijernck, but Loeffler and Frosch were the only ones who came to the correct conclusion as to why disease was still being seen after filtration. They also realized that other diseases they had been struggling with may also be caused by these filtrates (e.g. measles, pox, rinderpest, etc.).

    Loeffler continued to conduct experiments using the foot and mouth disease virus. These experiments would often lead to outbreaks of disease in the area farms surrounding Greifswald due to lack of a high containment facility in the 1900’s. Loeffler was made to stop his experiments in 1907 due to pressure from the Minister of Culture. He would not accept defeat so easily and began his hunt for an island to continue his research on. He found the Island of Riems and on October 10, 1910 conducted his first research experiment on the island.

    Until the 1920’s the island was only reachable by boat. A suspended cable car was built and used for a short amount of time, designed with separate coaches for animals and humans. All that remains of the cable car system today are the concrete foundations. A crossway was built in 1971 and remained the primary access route to Riems until 2007 when it was interrupted. Nature forced this interruption by the crossways blockage of fresh water to a nearby island and subsequent negative effects on that islands ecosystem.

    We started our tour of FLI in the Main Building which was commissioned in 1940. Along the walls of the first floor and up the stairs are paintings depicting real life situations that the painter saw there. The first painting done was of a pathology necropsy there are also paintings of scientists using an electron microscope, using a crystal violet blood method for the creation of classical swine fever vaccine, and preparing the foot and mouth disease vaccine. The paintings were truly beautiful works of art that allow the viewer to look back into history.

    We go outside and are shown a small animal breeding facility and an isolation facility. The institute breeds all of their own small animals on the island. All of the large research animals are shipped in from various farms near the island. Both of the buildings we saw will soon be torn down following the completion of the new facility. Dr. Mettenleiter shows us the new research facility in the process of being built. The new research facility cost 300 million euro to build. When complete it will house 89 laboratories and 163 animal rooms. From the outside it looks like one building but we come to learn it is actually three completely separate buildings. The section of the building with no windows is the BSL 4 area. It has two floors of ventilation above it and two floors of waste and carcass removal below it.

    Walking around the Institute it was noticed that there were no men with guns or large barbed wire fences that would be typical if this institute were in the United States. Dr. Mettenleiter explained that the institute tries to keep a low profile and that adding a bunch of security would make people suspicious of what was being done at the institute. He said they have never really had a problem with protesting or animal rights activists. On September 10, 2010 the FLI even celebrated their 100 year anniversary with an open house at the Institute. More than 8,000 visitors from the community came to the island and toured the facility. When was the last time Plum Island did that? At the conclusion of our tour of the FlI we passed by a metal statue of a cow out in front of the building and were told that the PhD students at the institute have a tradition of riding the cow and having their photo taken with it. After our tour we received a seminar titled “Transgenic mice in diagnostic research” by Dr. Marcus Keller. He walked us through the process they use to create transgenic mice and their use of knockin and knockout mice to look at various diseases such as West Nile virus and Alzheimer’s disease.

    We concluded our day with dinner at Braugasthaus Zum Alten Fritz located in Greifswald city square. I ordered the Schnitzel with mushroom sauce, potatoes, and a small salad--it was delicious!  After dinner we walked to Janny’s Eis, a small ice cream shop near the square, for dessert. It was a perfect end to the day.

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