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What can be done to combat the third leading cause of death worldwide?

Freie Universität Berlin participates in international research project to develop new therapies against antibiotic-resistant pathogens of pneumonia / Funded with 10 million euros from the European Union

№ 025/2020 from Feb 04, 2020

Scientists from eleven European research institutions, including the Institute of Pharmacy at Freie Universität Berlin, are jointly looking for new ways to combat antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The interdisciplinary research team deals with the treatment of bacterial pneumonia by means of a so-called flagellin aerosol therapy. Pneumonia is considered the third leading cause of death worldwide. The bacterial pathogens causing it are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics that have been used to treat pneumonia. The researchers are therefore trying to find new drugs and strategies that, in combination with the proven antibiotic agents, can arm the human immune system against bacteria. They will study the effectiveness of such therapeutic approaches over the next five years. The extensive research project called “FAIR” (short for “Flagellin Aerosol therapy as an Immunomodulatory adjunct to the antibiotic treatment of drug-resistant bacterial pneumonia”) is being funded by the European Union within the Horizon 2020 funding program with around ten million euros.

Pneumonia is one of the most common, but at the same time avoidable, causes of death globally. Children and the elderly are particularly at risk. Bacterial as well as viral pathogens affect the respiratory tract when infected. The tiny air sacs in the lungs – the so-called alveoli – get inflamed and fill with liquid, which makes breathing difficult. Pneumonia is caused by a droplet infection or by pathogens that enter the lungs via the bloodstream. Without treatment, weakened patients can die from the consequences of the disease within a few days or weeks.

The “FAIR” research project aims to develop new therapeutic strategies against bacterial pneumonia that can be used in addition to antibiotic treatment. To this end, the scientists involved are analyzing the use of a special drug, immunomodulating flagellin. The substance may be able to stimulate the innate immune system of the respiratory tract so that antibiotics can work more efficiently. Without such innovative treatment options, infections with resistant bacteria threaten to become the main cause of death worldwide by 2050, according to estimates by experts from the United Nations’ World Health Organization.

In addition to Freie Universität Berlin, the following companies, research institutions, and scientific societies are participating in the international research project: Institut National Santé et Recherche Paris, Centre Hospitalier Régional Universitaire de Tours, Epithelix Sarl, Plan les Ouates, Inserm Transfert SA Paris, European Respiratory Society Lausanne, Statens Serum Institut Kopenhagen, and Aerogen Ltd. Galway, as well as the universities: University of Sciences and Technology, Lille, Université de Lille I, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, University of Southampton.

Further Information


Prof. Dr. Charlotte Kloft, Institute of Pharmacy, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-50676, Email: charlotte.kloft@fu-berlin.de