Successful interdisciplinary cooperation between microbiology and allergology – from field research to cutting edge molecular biology

Pollen has a specific microbiome for every plant species!
The number and severity of diseases based on pollen allergies is constantly increasing. Scientists now assume that plants’ own defence mechanisms against environmental factors, such as exhaust fumes or adverse microbial overload, bear a significant share of the allergenicity of pollen and pollen-associated compounds. It is important to understand that microbes in themselves do not have a negative impact on plants (and people). Instead, the “right mix” (diversity) of microbes appears to be crucial to the health of human, animal and environment. The publication quoted below first describes the different types and number of microbes to be found on birch and grass pollen. The differences in the pollen microbiome between different species of plant are described as well as the differences between the pollen microbiome of the same plant species, but under the influence of different environmental factors such as location and pollution burden. In a second step, possible correlations between air pollution, pollen microbiome and the allergenicity of pollen were established.

If we damage the environment less, the allergenicity of plant pollen will also decrease
In this connection the research team established that precisely air pollution (traffic load) and a “harmful microbial load” have a negative influence on the allergenicity of pollen – hence more allergen is released. The aim now is to understand what induces pollen to release more allergen and what microbes act as trigger factors in this process. It seems clear that allergen production and allergen release are a defensive reaction – a type of stress situation that is intended to ensure the plant’s survival. A more positive influence on the plant world is needed in future through sustainable management of the environment, so that plants produce less (disease-causing) pollen allergen and hence patients have fewer symptoms and fewer allergies arise.

In February 2016, for the field of medicine, the relevant publication “Pollen-Associated Microbiome Correlates with Pollution Parameters and the Allergenicity of Pollen“ (first author: Andrea Obersteiner) was successfully published in the internationally highly-ranked specialist journal PLOS One. The publication is the result of excellent interdisciplinary cooperation between the Institute for Environmental Medicine at UNIKA-T and the Department of Microbe-Plant Interaction at the Helmholtz Centre in Munich. The scientific colleagues at the Institute for Environmental Medicine, Stefanie Gilles, Isabelle Beck and Franziska Häring, and the Institute Director Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann are pleased that, through their research efforts, they have made a unique contribution to the understanding of the connection between microbiome, air pollution and the allergenicity of pollen.

Claudio Rhyner, PhD appointed as the new Managing Director

On 1 October 2020, Claudio Rhyner succeeded Dr. Georg Schäppi as Managing Director of CK-CARE. Georg Schäppi was appointed CEO at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich as of 1 December, 2020.

Claudio Rhyner was born and grew up in Davos. After studying chemistry and molecular biology, he graduated specialising in asthma and allergy research. He was active in fundamental scientific research, including as head of the research “Vaccine Development” group at the SIAF (Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research). In this capacity he published numerous publications and filed several patents. After holding a leading position in a SME in molecular diagnostics, he became CEO of Biosciences Davos. Biosciences Davos is a spin-off organisation of CK-CARE in the field of biobanking and is part of the Medizincampus Davos. He continues to hold this position.

In his private life, Claudio Rhyner is actively engaged in politics and culture in the Davos community. He also completed a postgraduate degree in the field of management of small and medium-sized companies at the University St. Gallen.

Atopic dermatitis: an expanding therapeutic pipeline for a complex disease

Our founder, Prof. Thomas Bieber, published an important contribution in the treatment of AD:

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common chronic inflammatory skin disease with a complex pathophysiology that underlies a wide spectrum of clinical phenotypes. AD remains challenging to treat owing to the limited response to available therapies. However, recent advances in understanding of disease mechanisms have led to the discovery of novel potential therapeutic targets and drug candidates

In addition to regulatory approval for the IL-4Ra inhibitor dupilumab, the anti-IL-13 inhibitor tralokinumab and the JAK1/2 inhibitor baricitinib in Europe, there are now more than 70 new compounds in development. This Review assesses the various strategies and novel agents currently being investigated for AD and highlights the potential for a precision medicine approach to enable prevention and more effective long-term control of this complex disease.

read more…

Kühne-Foundation Annual Report 2020

“Key priority of the Kühne Foundation is the support for training, further education as well as research and science in the area of logistics. This also includes Humanitarian Logistics and a project concentrating on free global trade.
Another focal point is our medicine funding through research, therapy, and education in the fields of allergology and cardiology. In Davos, Switzerland, we operate the Hochgebirgsklinik, a renowed rehabilitation hospital owned by us, and various research institutions. In the cultural sector, we support leading opera houses and concert halls and belong to the main sponsors of the Salzburg Festival and Lucerne Festival.”

Prof. Dr. h.c. Klaus-Michael Kühne

Covid-19 risk increases with airborne pollen

When airborne pollen levels are higher, increased SARS-CoV-2 infection rates can be observed. These results were determined by a large-scale study conducted by an international team headed by researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Helmholtz Zentrum München. Members of high-risk groups could protect themselves by watching pollen forecasts and wearing dust filter masks.

In the spring of 2020, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic appeared to coincide with the tree pollen season in the northern hemisphere. These observations prompted an international team of researchers to conduct an extensive investigation: The scientists wanted to know whether there is a demonstrable link between airborne pollen concentrations and SARS-CoV-2 infection rates.

Pollen is a significant environmental factor influencing infection rates
Based on CK-CARE research and under the leadership of first author Athanasios Damialis, the team at the Chair of Environmental Medicine at TUM collected data on airborne pollen concentrations, weather conditions and SARS-CoV-2 infections – taking into consideration the variation of infection rates from one day to another and the total number of positive tests. In their calculations, the team also included data on population density and the effects of lockdown measures. The 154 researchers analyzed pollen data from 130 stations in 31 countries on five continents.

„Wearing a particle filtering mask when pollen concentrations are high can keep both the virus and pollen out of the airways.”— Prof. Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann

The team showed that airborne pollen can account for, on average, 44 percent of the variation in infection rates, with humidity and air temperature also playing a role in some cases. During intervals without lockdown regulations, infection rates were on average 4 percent higher with every increase of 100 grains of airborne pollen per cubic meter. In some German cities, concentrations of up to 500 pollen grains per cubic meter per day were recorded during the study – which led to an overall increase in infection rates of more than 20 percent. In regions where lockdown rules were in effect, however, the infection numbers were on average only half as high at comparable pollen concentrations.

Continuing Medical Education Activities for Improved Management of Allergy

Effectiveness and sustainability of continuing medical education activities are, in general, a huge challenge. Given the frequency of allergic diseases, the increasing prevalence, the burden of the disease, the degree of suffering and the age of onset, there is a need for paediatricians to have in-depth knowledge and skills in allergology. We developed a needs-based course for Swiss paediatricians in primary care, where the relevant competencies are acquired in modular, multi-method learning activities.

The teaching is focused on filling gaps and aims at a behavioural change. To facilitate this change and the transfer of acquired competence into daily practice, a commitment-to-change (CTC) strategy was introduced. Paediatricians found four key elements decisive to change their clinical practice: problem-oriented, reflective, situated learning and convenience in learning/applying. Allergy education should help physicians to improve their knowledge, skills and attitudes in order to better perform and provide improved care to their allergy patients.

For more details please refer to the “Letter to the Editor” published by D. Straub Piccirillo, P. Schmid-Grendelmeier, M. Hitzler, R. Lauener in Allergy. 2018 Jun;73(6):1351-1353. doi: 10.1111/all.13443. Epub 2018 Apr 17.

Exposure to farm animals protects farm children from asthma

(Natural News) Asthma is a common disease among most children, with the exception being farm children. Immunologists from the University of Zurich have pinpointed the cause: exposure to farm animals. Specifically, the researchers have identified a sialic acid in farm animals that has proven to be effective against lung tissue inflammation.

The sialic acid is N-Glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc), a substance that is prevalent in the majority of vertebrates but absent in humans. According to the researchers, humans are unable to produce this non-microbial substance naturally, yet are fully capable of absorbing it from animals through either touch or by consuming food products made from animals.

Quelle: UZH Zürich