Arbeitgruppe: Research Group "Arbovirus Ecology" - Illustration:
Research Group "Arbovirus Ecology" - Illustration:

Research Topics

The research group "Arbovirus Ecology" studies the spatial-temporal distribution of vectors and associated pathogens.

Vector and arbovirus surveillance

Human and animal diseases caused by arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) are of growing importance in many countries of the world. Continuing eco-climatic changes and globalization create suitable conditions for the emergence of arboviruses. Thus, we are involved in different international and national programs to collect and analyse vector and arbovirus data. This provided a solid base to determine the underlying causes of the seasonal fluctuations in arbovirus activity and arbovirus emergence.

Downstream analysis including the detection of new viruses and phylogenetic characterization of viruses are conducted in cooperation with the Virus Discovery, Genomics and Evolution Lab (Dr. Daniel Cadar).

Vector collection and screening

We conduct mosquito, sandfly, tick and biting midge collections in different setting in Euoprean and international settings. This data are used 1) to understand the distribution, diversity and phenology of the different vector species and 2) for arbovirus screening.

Dead-bird surveillance

Usutu virus and West Nile virus are threats for human and animal health. In cooperation with the Nature and Biodiversity Consveration Union (NABU) we ask citizens in Germany to sent dead birds to our institute. The samples are screened for arboviruses to understand the spatial-temporal circulation in Germany.

Risk modelling of spatial-temporal arbovirus transmission

Ecology and host-feeding patterns of vectors

The fundamental understanding of vector ecology is the sine qua non to understand the spatial-temporal risk of pathogen transmission.

Especially host-feeding patterns of blood-sucking arthropods shape the transmission cycle of vector-borne patghoesn, which direct insights into the interaction between vectors and hosts. However, there is still a lack of knowledge about the host spectrum for vector species, including mosquitoes, biting midges or sandflies.

Methods for vector sampling and identification

Standardized techniques for vector sampling and identification are crucial to allow comparable data collection and subsequent analysis. We compare different traps for host-seeking and resting mosquitoes (e.g. Lühken et al. 2014, Sauer et al. 2020) or evalute subsampling methods for large mosquito samples (Jaworski et al. 2019). For vector identification, we develop both, molecular and morphometric tools, which also allow the identification of cryptic species (e.g. Culex pipiens pipiens vs. Culex torrentium or members of the Anopheles maculipennis complex) (e.g. Börstler et al. 2014, Lühken et al. 2016, Sauer et al. 2020).

All Publications (Last Five Years)

Complete list of publications can be found at: Google scholar or PubMed or ResearchGate


Artificial resting sites: An alternative sampling method for adult mosquitoes
Jaworski L, Sauer F, Jansen S, Tannich E, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Kiel E, Lühken R
Med Vet Entomol. 2021 Sep; doi: 10.1111/mve.12559

The first record of the invasive mosquito species Aedes albopictus in Chişinӑu, Republic of Moldova, 2020
Șuleșco T, Bușmachiu G, Lange U, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Lühken R
Parasit Vectors. 2021 Nov 3;14(1):565. doi: 10.1186/s13071-021-05060-2

Rapid assessment of West Nile virus circulation in a German zoo based on honey-baited FTA cards in combination with box gravid traps
Fynmore N, Lühken R, Maisch H, Risch T, Merz S, Kliemke K, Ziegler U, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Becker N
Parasit Vectors. 2021 Sep 6;14(1):449. doi: 10.1186/s13071-021-04951-8

Discovery and genetic characterization of a novel orthonairovirus in Ixodes ricinus ticks from Danube Delta
Tomazatos A, von Possel R, Pekarek N, Holm T, Rieger T, Baum H, Bialonski A, Maranda I, Erdelyi-Molnár I, Spînu M, Lühken R, Jansen S, Emmerich P, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Cadar D
Infect Genet Evol. 2021 Mar;88:104704. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2021.104704

Habitat and microclimate affect the resting site selection of mosquitoes
Sauer FG, Grave J, Lühken R, Kiel E
Med Vet Entomol. 2021 Sep;35(3):379-388. doi: 10.1111/mve.12506

Laborgruppe Lühken

Geometric morphometric wing analysis represents a robust tool to identify female mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) in Germany
Sauer FG, Jaworski L, Erdbeer A, Heitmann J, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Kiel E, Lühken R
Sci Rep. 2020 Oct 19;10(1):17613. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-72873-z

Impacts of sampling rhythm and exposition on the effectiveness of artificial resting shelters for mosquito collection in northern Germany
Sauer FG, Jaworski L, Lühken R, Kiel E
J Vector Ecol. 2020 Jun;45(1):142-146. doi: 10.1111/jvec.12383

West Nile Virus Epidemic in Germany Triggered by Epizootic Emergence, 2019
Ziegler U, Santos PD, Groschup MH, Hattendorf C, Eiden M, Höper D, Eisermann P, Keller M, Michel F, Klopfleisch R, Müller K, Werner D, Kampen H, Beer M, Frank C, Lachmann R, Tews BA, Wylezich C, Rinder M, Lachmann L, Grünewald T, Szentiks CA, Sieg M, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Cadar D, Lühken R
Viruses. 2020 Apr 15;12(4):448. doi: 10.3390/v12040448

Phlebotomine sand flies in Southwest Germany: an update with records in new locations
Oerther S, Jöst H, Heitmann A, Lühken R, Krüger A, Steinhausen I, Brinker C, Lorentz S, Marx M, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Naucke T, Becker N
Parasit Vectors. 2020 Apr 21;13(1):173. doi: 10.1186/s13071-020-04058-6

Modelling the monthly abundance of Culicoides biting midges in nine European countries using Random Forests machine learning
Cuéllar AC, Kjær LJ, Baum A, Stockmarr A, Skovgard H, Nielsen SA, Andersson MG, Lindström A, Chirico J, Lühken R, Steinke S, Kiel E, Gethmann J, Conraths FJ, Larska M, Smreczak M, Orłowska A, Hamnes I, Sviland S, Hopp P, Brugger K, Rubel F, Balenghien T, Garros C, Rakotoarivony I, Allène X, Lhoir J, Chavernac D, Delécolle JC, Mathieu B, Delécolle D, Setier-Rio ML, Scheid B, Chueca MÁM, Barceló C, Lucientes J, Estrada R, Mathis A, Venail R, Tack W, Bødker R
Parasit Vectors. 2020 Apr 15;13(1):194. doi: 10.1186/s13071-020-04053-x

Identification and RNAi Profile of a Novel Iflavirus Infecting Senegalese Aedes vexans arabiensis Mosquitoes
Parry R, Naccache F, Ndiaye EH, Fall G, Castelli I, Lühken R, Medlock J, Cull B, Hesson JC, Montarsi F, Failloux AB, Kohl A, Schnettler E, Diallo M, Asgari S, Dietrich I, Becker SC
Viruses. 2020 Apr 14;12(4):440. doi: 10.3390/v12040440

Letea Virus: Comparative Genomics and Phylogenetic Analysis of a Novel Reassortant Orbivirus Discovered in Grass Snakes ( Natrix natrix)
Tomazatos A, Marschang RE, Maranda I, Baum H, Bialonski A, Spînu M, Lühken R, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Cadar D
Viruses. 2020 Feb 21;12(2):243. doi: 10.3390/v12020243

Blood-meal analysis of Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) reveals a broad host range and new species records for Romania
Tomazatos A, Jöst H, Schulze J, Spînu M, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Cadar D, Lühken R
Parasit Vectors. 2020 Feb 17;13(1):79. doi: 10.1186/s13071-020-3938-1

Microsatellite typing of Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) populations from Germany suggests regular introductions
Lühken R, Heitmann A, Jansen S, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Börstler J, Werner D, Kampen H, Kuhn C, Pluskota B, Ferstl I, Jöst A, Becker N, Tannich E

Laborgruppe Boyle

Ecology of West Nile Virus in the Danube Delta, Romania: Phylogeography, Xenosurveillance and Mosquito Host-Feeding Patterns
Tomazatos A, Jansen S, Pfister S, Török E, Maranda I, Horváth C, Keresztes L, Spînu M, Tannich E, Jöst H, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Cadar D, Lühken R
Viruses. 2019 Dec 14;11(12):1159. doi: 10.3390/v11121159

Dissecting the Gene Expression, Localization, Membrane Topology, and Function of the Plasmodium falciparum STEVOR Protein Family
Wichers JS, Scholz JAM, Strauss J, Witt S, Lill A, Ehnold LI, Neupert N, Liffner B, Lühken R, Petter M, Lorenzen S, Wilson DW, Löw C, Lavazec C, Bruchhaus I, Tannich E, Gilberger TW, Bachmann A
mBio. 2019 Jul 30;10(4):e01500-19. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01500-19

Evidence for West Nile Virus and Usutu Virus Infections in Wild and Resident Birds in Germany, 2017 and 2018
Michel F, Sieg M, Fischer D, Keller M, Eiden M, Reuschel M, Schmidt V, Schwehn R, Rinder M, Urbaniak S, Müller K, Schmoock M, Lühken R, Wysocki P, Fast C, Lierz M, Korbel R, Vahlenkamp TW, Groschup MH, Ziegler U
Viruses. 2019 Jul 23;11(7):674. doi: 10.3390/v11070674

Comparative analysis of subsampling methods for large mosquito samples
Jaworski L, Jansen S, Pfitzner WP, Beck M, Becker N, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Kiel E, Lühken R
Parasit Vectors. 2019 Jul 16;12(1):354. doi: 10.1186/s13071-019-3606-5.

Culex torrentium: A Potent Vector for the Transmission of West Nile Virus in Central Europe
Jansen S, Heitmann A, Lühken R, Leggewie M, Helms M, Badusche M, Rossini G, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Tannich E
Viruses. 2019 May 29;11(6):492. doi: 10.3390/v11060492.

Ixodes frontalis: a neglected but ubiquitous tick species in Germany
Drehmann M, Chitimia-Dobler L, Lindau A, Frank A, Mai S, Fachet K, Hauck D, Knoll S, Strube C, Lühken R, Fischer D, Ziegler L, Mackenstedt U
Exp Appl Acarol. 2019 May;78(1):79-91. doi: 10.1007/s10493-019-00375-3. Epub 2019 May 15.

West Nile virus epizootic in Germany, 2018
Ziegler U, Lühken R, Keller M, Cadar D, van der Grinten E, Michel F, Albrecht K, Eiden M, Rinder M, Lachmann L, Höper D, Vina-Rodriguez A, Gaede W, Pohl A, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Groschup MH
Antiviral Res. 2019 Feb;162:39-43. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2018.12.005. Epub 2018 Dec 11.

Laborgruppe Boyle

Host-feeding patterns of Culex mosquitoes in Iran
Shahhosseini N, Friedrich J, Moosa-Kazemi SH, Sedaghat MM, Kayedi MH, Tannich E, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Lühken R
Parasit Vectors. 2018 Dec 27;11(1):669. doi: 10.1186/s13071-018-3237-2

Monthly variation in the probability of presence of adult Culicoides populations in nine European countries and the implications for targeted surveillance
Cuéllar AC, Jung Kjær L, Baum A, Stockmarr A, Skovgard H, Nielsen SA, Andersson MG, Lindström A, Chirico J, Lühken R, Steinke S, Kiel E, Gethmann J, Conraths FJ, Larska M, Smreczak M, Orłowska A, Hamnes I, Sviland S, Hopp P, Brugger K, Rubel F, Balenghien T, Garros C, Rakotoarivony I, Allène X, Lhoir J, Chavernac D, Delécolle JC, Mathieu B, Delécolle D, Setier-Rio ML, Venail R, Scheid B, Chueca MÁM, Barceló C, Lucientes J, Estrada R, Mathis A, Tack W, Bødker R
Parasit Vectors. 2018 Nov 29;11(1):608. doi: 10.1186/s13071-018-3182-0

Experimental transmission of Zika virus by Aedes japonicus japonicus from southwestern Germany
Jansen S, Heitmann A, Lühken R, Jöst H, Helms M, Vapalahti O, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Tannich E
Emerg Microbes Infect. 2018 Nov 28;7(1):192. doi: 10.1038/s41426-018-0195-x

Evaluating the risk for Usutu virus circulation in Europe: comparison of environmental niche models and epidemiological models
Cheng Y, Tjaden NB, Jaeschke A, Lühken R, Ziegler U, Thomas SM, Beierkuhnlein C
Int J Health Geogr. 2018 Oct 12;17(1):35. doi: 10.1186/s12942-018-0155-7

Forced Salivation As a Method to Analyze Vector Competence of Mosquitoes
Heitmann A, Jansen S, Lühken R, Leggewie M, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Tannich E
J Vis Exp. 2018 Aug 7;(138):57980. doi: 10.3791/57980

Experimental risk assessment for chikungunya virus transmission based on vector competence, distribution and temperature suitability in Europe, 2018
Heitmann A, Jansen S, Lühken R, Helms M, Pluskota B, Becker N, Kuhn C, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Tannich E
Euro Surveill. 2018 Jul;23(29):1800033. doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2018.23.29.1800033

Circulation of Dirofilaria immitis and Dirofilaria repens in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, Romania
omazatos A, Cadar D, Török E, Maranda I, Horváth C, Keresztes L, Spinu M, Jansen S, Jöst H, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Tannich E, Lühken R
Parasit Vectors. 2018 Jul 4;11(1):392. doi: 10.1186/s13071-018-2980-8

Spatial and temporal variation in the abundance of Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) in nine European countries
Cuéllar AC, Kjær LJ, Kirkeby C, Skovgard H, Nielsen SA, Stockmarr A, Andersson G, Lindstrom A, Chirico J, Lühken R, Steinke S, Kiel E, Gethmann J, Conraths FJ, Larska M, Hamnes I, Sviland S, Hopp P, Brugger K, Rubel F, Balenghien T, Garros C, Rakotoarivony I, Allène X, Lhoir J, Chavernac D, Delécolle JC, Mathieu B, Delécolle D, Setier-Rio ML, Venail R, Scheid B, Chueca MÁM, Barceló C, Lucientes J, Estrada R, Mathis A, Tack W, Bødker R
Parasit Vectors. 2018 Feb 27;11(1):112. doi: 10.1186/s13071-018-2706-y

West Nile Virus and Usutu Virus Monitoring of Wild Birds in Germany
Michel F, Fischer D, Eiden M, Fast C, Reuschel M, Müller K, Rinder M, Urbaniak S, Brandes F, Schwehn R, Lühken R, Groschup MH, Ziegler U
Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Jan 22;15(1):171. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15010171


Distribution of Usutu Virus in Germany and Its Effect on Breeding Bird Populations
Lühken R, Jöst H, Cadar D, Thomas SM, Bosch S, Tannich E, Becker N, Ziegler U, Lachmann L, Schmidt-Chanasit J
Emerg Infect Dis. 2017 Dec;23(12):1994-2001. doi: 10.3201/eid2312.171257

Detection and characterization of a novel rhabdovirus in Aedes cantans mosquitoes and evidence for a mosquito-associated new genus in the family Rhabdoviridae
Shahhosseini N, Lühken R, Jöst H, Jansen S, Börstler J, Rieger T, Krüger A, Yadouleton A, de Mendonça Campos R, Cirne-Santos CC, Ferreira DF, Garms R, Becker N, Tannich E, Cadar D, Schmidt-Chanasit J
Infect Genet Evol. 2017 Nov;55:260-268. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2017.09.026

West Nile Virus lineage-2 in Culex specimens from Iran
Shahhosseini N, Chinikar S, Moosa-Kazemi SH, Sedaghat MM, Kayedi MH, Lühken R, Schmidt-Chanasit J
Trop Med Int Health. 2017 Oct;22(10):1343-1349. doi: 10.1111/tmi.12935

Widespread activity of multiple lineages of Usutu virus, western Europe, 2016
Cadar D, Lühken R, van der Jeugd H, Garigliany M, Ziegler U, Keller M, Lahoreau J, Lachmann L, Becker N, Kik M, Oude Munnink BB, Bosch S, Tannich E, Linden A, Schmidt V, Koopmans MP, Rijks J, Desmecht D, Groschup MH, Reusken C, Schmidt-Chanasit J
Euro Surveill. 2017 Jan 26;22(4):30452. doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2017.22.4.30452

Experimental transmission of Zika virus by mosquitoes from central Europe
Heitmann A, Jansen S, Lühken R, Leggewie M, Badusche M, Pluskota B, Becker N, Vapalahti O, Schmidt-Chanasit J, Tannich E
Euro Surveill. 2017 Jan 12;22(2):30437. doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2017.22.2.30437

Third-Party Funded Projects

Vector control for emerging mosquito-borne viruses in the course of climate warming [2021-2024]

The aim of the project is the evaluation of vector control measurements of West Nile virus vectors in the cause of climate warming, focusing on mass trapping of adult mosquitoes and the use of Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) against aquatic stages in Germany. The project starts with a theoretical evaluation of different control strategies using a mechanistic population model. Laboratory and field experiments on the climate-dependent effectiveness of Bti at different concentrations are conducted. In combination with a model on the dynamics (water volume, temperature) of artificial waterbodies, a prediction model is developed based on the experimental data to estimate the required Bti concentration and frequency of application for an effective and sustainable control. Furthermore, mass trapping with CO2 traps will be carried out. Thereby, the main question is how many traps must be used for an effective reduction of the adult mosquito population. The control success is monitored by marking the mosquitoes with stable isotopes, which also allow to estimate the direction and distance of dispersal. Finally, based on the findings of the studies, different control strategies will be tested in the field and compared regarding their effectiveness.

Alternative mosquito control by adult traps (AIDA) [2021-2022]

The project "Alternative mosquito control by adult traps" (AIDA) is part of the research network "Epidemiology and Prevention of West Nile Virus Infection in Germany" (EPISODE). In the subproject AIDA, studies will be conducated at different locations in the main circulation area of West Nile virus (WNV) in eastern Germany (Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Berlin). Two mosquito control strategies are tested in the field. At all sites adult traps will be set up. At some sites, in addition to adult traps, control (B.t.i.)/removal from breeding waters will be conducted. The success of adult population reduction per site will be evaluated by parallel surveys in breeding waters and artificial resting places. At the same time, systematic sampling of breeding waters allows identification of the main breeding sites for mosquitoes of the genus Culex as main vectors of West Nile virus. Finally, in a dialogue workshop of the subproject, the collected expertise concerning zoonotic infectious diseases will be discussed including the public health service, in order to jointly develop future for the prevention of WNV.

Near-real time decision tool to response against emerging mosquito-borne diseases (NEED) [2020-2025]

Mosquito-borne viruses are an emerging threat in Central Europe, which are a major challenge for researchers, stakeholders and the overall health care system for humans and animals. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop an evidence-based decision tool helping to select a cost-effective reaction to the local transmission risk. These responses can be very different, e.g. surveillance strategies, vector control or vaccination, which are all associated with different costs and outcomes regarding pathogen control. Therefore, the objective of the here proposed project is the development of a ‘Near-real time decision tool to response against emerging mosquito-borne diseases’. Due to the quickly changing spatial-temporal pattern regarding emerging and re-emerging mosquito-borne viruses, model results are updated near-real time by combining remotely available biotic and abiotic data with statistical models. The results are presented in a rapidly updated website, which provide different modelling products showing the spatial-temporal distribution of mosquito vectors and risk of introduction/transmission of associated viruses. The combination with estimates on the costs for different response scenarios will inform a decision tool, allowing the selection of cost-effective measurements for detection, prevention and control of mosquito-borne viruses.

Diversity components in mosquito-borne diseases in face of climate change (DiMoC) [2020-2023]

DiMoC will contribute to better understand the effects of biodiversity in mosquito-borne pathogen transmission. Through the analysis of different organisational (hosts, insects, viruses, human population), spatial (continental, regional, local, organism) and temporal scales (current conditions / future projections), DiMoC will test whether:

1. Greater diversity in insect-specific virus hosted by mosquitoes results in a reduced relative risk of transmission of a virus through interactions within these populations;

2. Mosquito diversity is influenced by interspecific interactions (e.g. competition) between species, which translates into different relative transmission risk;

3. Greater host species diversity reduces the transmission risk due to the dilution effect;

4. Changes in climatic conditions explain current large-scale patterns of pathogen, vector, and host diversity more than socio-economic conditions;

These results will allow to evaluate whether scenarios and models including climate, landscape diversity, and societal diversity can be used to quantify uncertainty in future trends of risks in pathogen transmission.

Mosquitoes and mosquito-borne zoonoses in Germany (CuliFo2) [2019-2022]

Early Warning System for Mosquito-borne Diseases (EWSMD) [2018-2021]

In this project, we will use the entomological, epidemiological, climatological and geographical data from Germany and Greece already available and/or to be produced by our partners, key actors in the field of pathogen detection and vector control in Europe, in order to develop a common Early Warning System for mosquito borne diseases to be implemented and evaluated in both countries. Substantial exchange of know-how and expertise will take place between two major research institutes in the field arbovirology and transfer to two Major mosquito control operators in Europe for operational purposes.
The project's objectives are: 1. Connecting major European actors in arbovirology and mosquito surveillance and control from Germany and Greece 2. Reanalyze the epidemiological data from the severe WNV epidemic in Northern Greece since 2010 and the USUV outbreaks in Germany since 2011 so as to prepare accordingly Germany and Greece against WNV, USUV and other arboviruses. 3. Identify high risk areas and critical time intervals for WNV and USUV circulation following modeling from entomological data and epidemiological data already produced by the partners during the last years and to be further developed for the years 2018 and 2019 (Lühken et al. 2017). 4. Provide good practices, innovative tools and methods for the control of container-breeding mosquitoes in urban settings, with special consideration of Culex pipiens and Aedes albopictus, which are the major European vectors for existing (USUV in Germany and WNV in Greece) and/or threatening (WNV for Germany, dengue, Chikungunya and Zika for both countries) mosquito-borne diseases. 5. Produce, update and make available this information to concerned Public Health Institutions and/or other bodies of both countries, a functional webGIS, in which the users will have the possibility to view, explore, query, and display the periodical risk maps of the Early Warning System for mosquito-borne diseases.

Image: BNITM


Dr. Renke Lühken

Phone: +49 40 42818-862
Fax: +49 40 42818-512