Tropical Diseases on the Rise

Spread of the African West Nile virus in Germany

Last month, the head of the Institute of Virology at the Charité Hospital in Berlin, Christian Drosten, told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe about the spread of the African West Nile virus in Germany. He pointed out that the number of mosquitoes carrying the virus seems to be increasing. He said the mosquitoes are now also widespread in Berlin and in large parts of Eastern Germany.

In previous years, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) already reported several cases of the disease in Germany that were due to transmission by domestic mosquitoes. In 2019, the RKI reported five infections, and in 2020, there were 20 cases, including one death. In 2021, the rate dropped to four infections, after which it rose again to 17 cases in 2022.

Although the rate of severe illness, even in newly infected areas, is only one in 1000 infected persons, the virus can cause life-threatening inflammation of the brain and permanent disabilities, warns Drosten. Epidemiologist Christina Frank of the RKI estimates that 80% of those infected are unaware of their illness. However, the number of diagnoses is likely to rise steadily. Not only because the spread of the virus in our latitudes is increasing, but also because more is being said about the topic and doctors are being sensitized to the West Nile virus and its diagnosis. Those affected include mainly older and pre-diseased people. The virus can only be transmitted from person to person through an organ transplantation, blood transfusion or during pregnancy.

Experts assume that the virus was introduced by migratory birds. Mosquitoes serve as vectors for humans and other vertebrates. According to Christian Drosten, the spread of the West Nile virus is directly related to the climate change. It's known that the virus now overwinters in Germany, probably because it doesn't get cold enough anymore.

Most tropical disease viruses need high temperatures of 25°C or higher for several weeks to reproduce in mosquitoes. The RKI predicts that cases of West Nile virus infections in Germany will increase when summers become warmer and longer.

One of the best-known vectors of tropical diseases is the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), which was first discovered in Germany, near Weil am Rhein, in 2007. In 2014, additional tiger mosquitoes were documented in Freiburg, and in 2015, a larger population was documented in Heidelberg. The species is now also found in Baden-Württemberg, Thuringia, Hesse and Bavaria. Last summer, a successful overwintering of the Asian tiger mosquito was documented for the first time in Berlin. Tiger mosquitoes can transmit over twenty pathogens known mainly from the tropics - including Dengue, West Nile and Zika virus. As these arboviral pathogens are spreading geographically and their impact on public health is growing even in our latitudes, reliable diagnostics in the field of tropical diseases is also becoming increasingly important here.

Institut Virion\Serion GmbH offers ELISA immunoassays for the detection of human antibodies against a variety of tropical infections. A sensitive detection of IgM antibodies can support the early detection of acute infections. Quantitative results for IgG antibodies can be used for disease stage control, therapy monitoring and epidemiological studies. All tests have an excellent diagnostic efficiency with high sensitivities and specificities.

All these SERION ELISA classic tests are for tropical diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. Please see our product catalogue for a complete list of all ELISA for the detection of tropical infections and other diseases.



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BR24: West-Nil-Virus und Co: Mücken übertragen immer mehr Krankheiten

ARD alpha: Tropische Stechmücken erobern Deutschland

RKI: West-Nil-Fieber im Überblick


Eva Wald
Product Manager
Institut Virion\Serion GmbH