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(Vienna, 7 July 2010) For around three years an interdisciplinary group of researchers at MedUni Vienna has been examining the influence of virus infections in particular on the development of cancer. Apparently "harmless" herpes viruses are also being examined which, according to the latest knowledge, may trigger haematological diseases such as leukaemia. This research has now been recognised by the internationally renowned grant of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID).

Within the "Inflammation and Cancer" research cluster initiated by Univ. Prof. Dr. Christoph Zielinski at MedUni Vienna there has, for several years, been close interdisciplinary cooperation between the Divisions of Infectious Diseases and Haematology at Department of Medicine I, which deals with the theme of virus infections associated with cancers. A team headed by Priv. Doz. Dr. Christoph Steininger is examining in particular the connections between the immune system of patients with chronic lymphatic leukaemia and the cytomegalovirus. Steininger is also the first Austrian researcher being supported by the grant of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID).

The cytomegalovirus studied in this research project belongs to the family of herpes viruses and is widespread. Around 60-70% of the Austrian population have this virus without becoming ill because of it. It is during childhood that people usually become infected with this virus which, after infection, survives in cells of the immune system for the person's whole life by hiding in the cells and also confusing the immune system with viral messengers. It is only when the immune system becomes weak in infected people, e.g. when medication suppresses the immune system during an organ transplant, that the virus can make people sick. The group of researchers headed by Priv. Doz. Dr. Christoph Steininger has set itself the target of highlighting the influence of the battle between the virus and the immune system on the development of leukaemia.

Christoph Steininger says about his research: "The results of our work may possibly influence the therapeutic approach for chronic lymphatic leukaemia worldwide."

On account of the viruses’ many possibilities of controlling the metabolism of the cells, both the research of their particular mechanisms and also the interdisciplinary cooperation are important. At MedUni Vienna ideal general conditions have been created here to enable internationally relevant research findings and for these to be used directly in everyday clinical practice.

ESCMID Research Grant:
The Research Grant of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases worth 20,000 euros is awarded every year to outstanding young scientists who carry out pioneering research in the fields of clinical microbiology and infectious diseases.