Jump to top menu Jump to main menu Jump to content
Research group/lab  |  W. Unger

Pediatric Infection and Immunity

Pneumonia is the number one cause of mortality in children. We aim to improve the diagnostics to prevent inappropriate antibiotics use.

About our research group/lab

Our research

Background information

Pneumonia is the number one cause of death in children worldwide. Suspicion of pneumonia is therefore a major reason to prescribe antibiotics. The current non-invasive diagnostics tests have limited value, however: they neither discern bacteria from virus nor infection from carriage in a clinically relevant time frame. This is why clinicians have to rely on non-specific clinical symptoms to decide whether to prescribe antibiotics. The empirical therapy can be misdirected and result in inappropriate use of antibiotics, extra-pulmonary complications and further spread of pathogens in the community.

Overall aim

We work on finding new methods to diagnose pneumonia as well as targets for treatment of respiratory pathogens – Mycoplasma pneumoniae in particular. Thanks to Dr A.M.C. van Rossum (pediatrician and Head Pediatric Infectious Diseases) observations in patients can be investigated in the lab and – vice versa – findings from pre-clinical (animal) models can be validated in patients.

Research focus areas

  • Diagnostics: We are exploring the use of liquid biopsies for the diagnosis of pulmonary infections. We profile macrophages in the blood to distinguish the pneumonia-causing pathogen from harmless, non-invasive carried microorganisms. Additionally, we investigate the immunological control of infection and carriage.
  • Extra-pulmonary complications: Identifying and treating patients with infection-induced neurological diseases is complicated by lack of accurate diagnostics. We investigate humoral responses to M. pneumoniae structures to understand how autoimmunity develops and to find treatment targets.
  • Prevention strategies such as vaccination or anti-microbial peptides use can prevent pneumonia. We will test minimal-invasive application of vaccines and/or anti-microbial peptides using microneedle arrays and via mucosa.

Key Publications