After spending a beautiful weekend in Berlin, Monday started bright and early with nice breakfast at our hotel. After breakfast the group loaded our bags into the vans to leave for the three hour drive to the Friedrich Loeffler Institute located on the Island of Riems just outside of the gorgeous sea town of Greifswald, Germany. During the drive we were able to see the German countryside and just how beautiful it was! The old barns, cows grazing in the green pastures and the wild poppies growing along side of the road were picturesque! Once we reached Greifswald we checked into our hotel and headed to the Friedrich Loeffler Institute, which as I said before is located on the Island of Riems. The Island is just outside of Greifswald and can be reached from the mainland by a manmade bridge.
We were greeted by the president of the Friedrich Loeffler Institute, Professor Thomas Mettenleiter, who took time out of his busy schedule to show us the institute and explain its history.
The Friedrich Loeffler Institute was founded by Friedrich Loeffler in 1910 and is under the control of the German Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. It is the oldest virology research facility and the island is sometimes referred to as the “island of viruses,” or “Island of plagues.” Friedrich Loeffler worked with Robert Koch and in the Late 1880’s moved to Greifswald. In the early years, the animals in Loeffler’s experiments were housed in barns in the middle of Greifswald. There was little to no biosecurity and he was order to stop his experiments due to outbreaks of Foot and Mouth disease. He moved his experiments to the Island of Reims which is where it remains today.
Loeffler is credited for the discovery of the causative agent of diphtheria (Corynebacterium diphtheriae). Loeffler and Paul Frosch’s experiments found that Foot and Mouth disease was caused by a particle smaller than bacteria using a system of filters and that’s why many consider him the founder of virology. In 1938 and Foot and Mouth vaccine was created on the island and Foot and Mouth disease along with many other viral diseases continue to be a major areas of research for the institute.
The rest of our first day on Riems consisted of a seminar on International Animal Health given by Wolfgang Bochle and a tour of Riems. The seminar discussed different projects going on in the world to eradicate or at least control diseases both zoonotic and non-zoonotic. The Friedrich Loeffler Institute opened a new building (which among others contains a BSL4 facility) on October 10, 2010, exactly one hundred years after Friedrich Loeffler started working on the island. Several other new buildings are in process.
As we were driving from the island you could see sail boats in the water and Dr. Hoenig pointed out Denmark and the Island of Rugen. The rest of the evening was spent in Greifswald. The group ate together at a local brewery where I ordered a Zwicklefritz to drink. It is a lighter beer, and was very tasty. The restaurant is right on the cobblestone square, which is lined with beautiful buildings. Greifswald is home to the University of Greifswald and after dinner the group was given some free time to explore. Greifswald is a quiet little town in the northern part of Germany located in the German Federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. As we were walking up and down the cobblestone streets, stopping to get ice cream and window shopping, I could help but feel that it was a perfect way end to the day in Greifswald, Germany.