SARS-CoV-2 has made it very clear to us: As we age, the defense by our immune system against viruses can be very poor sometimes. Unfortunately, also vaccinations show often only weak effects in elderly individuals and infections can progress more severely than in younger people. Why is that? In order to better understand the connection between age and infectious diseases, the Cluster of Excellence RESIST is currently establishing a cohort with randomly selected, 650 citisens from Hanover. Biological samples and data from the participants will be collected and compared to data of patients. The overall aim is to better understand infectious diseases and to develop improved treatment.

In March 2020, when around 100 participants were already recruited, the corona pandemic put a stop to the project and a break became unavoidable. However, since mid-June 2020, recruitment can continue – of course under strict hygiene conditions. All participants have been or will be interviewed about their health status, experiences with symptoms and tests connected to the corona pandemic, about their social contacts and possible effects of the imposed restrictions. All participants since mid-June will be tested for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in addition to all previously planned examinations.

“We are also conducting specific cellular tests with SARS-CoV-2 antigens with all participants of the study in order to better understand the age-dependent immune mechanisms in the defense against this virus in comparison to other viral infections,” said Professor Werfel, head of this study. “Moreover, we are also offering an app for participants of our study that is particularly useful in the event of a cold or flu. Using the app, our test persons receive a short daily query, where they can enter whether symptoms are still present and, for example, which medications they have taken. The participants are also able to take a smear by themselves at home and send it to the Institute of Virology free of charge. The app shows than whether and which viruses have been detected,” said Dr. Yvonne Kemmling, who carries out the study. In addition, the data of people who become infected over the next two years will be compared with data of non-infected.

Two further RESIST studies led by Professor Werfel and Professor Stangel (MHH Clinic for Neurology) were also able to start in mid-June 2020. These studies are including patients suffering from severe shingles attacks or severe herpesvirus diseases such as eczema herpeticatum in neurodermatitis. These studies will also be expanded regarding corona-specific investigations.