Institut für Hygiene und Mikrobiologie


Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology has been involved in multiple research projects concerning SARS-CoV-2 infections. Projects span from monitoring concepts, over epidemiological surveillance, to diagnostics.

Monitoring concepts

Within the Wü-KiTa-CoV 1.0 and 2.0 projects, we evaluated the acceptance and practicability of different surveillance concepts for the early detection of SARS-CoV-2 infections in daycare children, daycare staff, and their household members. From October 2020 till July 2021, we offered different test methods in nine participating daycare centers in Würzburg. Our aim was to provide a test strategy for daycare center which is efficient, practical, and well accepted by parents, tutors and children in the long term.

In additional monitoring studies, we evaluated the performance of point-of-care tests for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in general practices, as well as in clinical use. Specifically, sensitivity and specificity of rapid-antigen tests were tested for their practicability and usefulness in the daily routine of general practices and at the university hospital and compared to PCR tests.

We also tested three conventional SARS-CoV-2 ELISA tests and three SARS-CoV-2 antibody rapid tests for their sensitivity and specificity and could detect significant differences in the performance between the individual ELISA and rapid antibody tests, as well as between the two test methods.

Epidemilogical surveillance

To scientifically analyse the benefit of epidemiological testing of staff in critical units via PCR and antigen rapid test at the university hospital, the costs and benefits of staff screening in hospitals according to the Bavarian testing concept was evaluated. In parallel, an analysis of the epidemiology of personnel infections with COVID-19 in the hospital and a comparative analysis of serological rapid tests was performed.

We also critically analysed SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks at a maximum care university hospital and evaluated reasons and countermeasures for repeated COVID-19 outbreaks.


The IHM was also involved in the evaluation of the novel CRISPR/Cas based diagnostics methods for RNA detection developed at the University of Würzburg and the innovative SARS-CoV-2 detection approach via enzymes and proteins present in saliva.

Test Center

Additionally, in March 2020 a COVID-19 test center was established at the University Hospital of Würzburg under the leadership of the Institute for Hygiene and Microbiology. From November 2020 to October 2021 it was one of the official Bavarian test centers in Würzburg.

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Jiao C, Sharma S, Dugar G, Peeck NL, Bischler T, Wimmer F, Yu Y, Barquist L, Schoen C, Kurzai O, Sharma CM, Beisel CL. Noncanonical crRNAs derived from host transcripts enable multiplexable RNA detection by Cas9. Science. 2021; 372(6545):941-948.

Forster J , Streng A, Rudolph P, Ruecker V, Wallstabe J, Timme S, Pietsch F, Hartmann K, Krauthausen M, Schmidt S, Ludwig T, Gierszewski D, Jans T, Engels G, Weißbrich B, Romanos M, Dölken L, Heuschmann P, Härtel C, Gágyor I, Figge MT, Kurzai O, Liese J SARS-CoV-2 surveillance in day care centers is well accepted and enables efficient prevention of secondary infections. JAMA Network Open. 2022; 5(1):e2142057

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Geraldine Engels, G. Hecker K, Forster J, Toepfner N, Hick E, Pietsch F, Heuschmann, Berner R, Härtel C, Kurzai O, Petersmann A, Streng A, Liese J High seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in preschool children in July 2022—a cross-sectional data collection in day-care centers. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2022; 119: 771–2.