The unit “Immunology of Infection” developed from the small workstation „serology“ at the old bacteriology of the Hygiene Institute of the University of Vienna. The primary task was modernising by preparation of specific antigen particularly of Gram negative bacteria such as Legionella, Salmonella and Yersinia. Antigens of these bacteria were used in the then novel ELISA technique. Many in-house ELISAs were developed and established. In the mid 1980ies we cultivated for the first time in Austria hard tick borreliae from patients specimens (cerebrospinal fluid, blood, skin) and ticks, the agents of Lyme borreliosis. We used also these antigens for developing detection systems. These in-house tests comprised direct and indirect immune fluorescence assays, ELISAs, Western blots, and „inverse phase immune-electrophoresis“. The latter was developed and established in order to demonstrate the presence of specific oligoklonal bands in samples of cerebrospinal fluid and serum. With the rapid increase of requirements concerning serology also the mediate patients´service increased rapidly. Therefore we switched from the laborious and time consuming production of in-house assays to then already well standardised commercial vitro diagnostics for routine diagnostic purposes. Independent of this, of course, the research activities in this field continued.
In July 2009 the former „Subunit Hygiene“ in Kinderspitalgasse 15 and the related laboratories at Zimmermannplatz 1 were fused with the unit „Molecular Immunology“ into the „Institute for Hygiene and Applied Immunology (IHAI)“ and became part of the newly formed „Centre for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology“. In IHAI we form the unit „Immunology of Infection and Microbiology“. Our research strategies further focus on the characterisation of antigens. A tissue culture unit is being established not only for the culture of chlamydiae but also for those obligate intracellular agents which are primarily transmitted by ticks. We continuously work on the serological detection of infections by hard-tick-borne borreliae and are studying the possibilities for discrimination of relapsing fever-like borreliae and soft-tick-borne borreliae by both, direct and indirect detection systems. For this and also in routine diagnosis we use high-through-put techniques and hold a very high level in quality control. By means of inter- and intra-laboratory comparative studies and by evaluation of the diagnostic relevance of new antigens we continuously evaluate the possibilities to increase the specificity of assays and pursue for evidence of indicators for active infectious disease.
Real Time PCR serves for the direct detection of specific DNA sequences of bacterial pathogens. Antigen detection by ELISA is established for special pathogens such as Legionella pneumophila, and for the fungi Aspergillus spp., Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans.
Cultivation of bacteria is done for agents that grow only under special conditions and in complex media such as borreliae and chlamydiae.
Based on knowledge and results in microbiological laboratory diagnostics we provide an extensive advisory activity for patients and physicians, hitherto without charge. Additionally, we are serving as reference center for Borrelia and Chlamydia.
The accomplishments of „Immunology in Infection and Microbiology“ have been achieved by a unique team which follows the self-determined rule of best communication in order to manage all laboratory work stations and substitute each other when required. Just as efficient runs administration and accounting.