"While the world slowed down, science speeded up!”

Pierluigi Nicotera, DZNE Chairmann


Covid-19 is popularly considered to be a disease of the lungs, which in severe cases can lead to death due to failure of the respiratory system. On the other hand, symptoms indicating neurological effects of the disease are also commonly known, such as loss of the sense of smell and taste as well as forgetfulness and reduced motivation as a result of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Neurodegenerative diseases in their entire spectrum remain the designated research subject of the DZNE - from the molecular basis to patient care in nursing homes. However, challenges and methods in the research of neurodegenerative diseases are quite alike to the tasks that the new virus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease Covid-19 confront us with - in many places there are even clear parallels.



  • Causes and mechanisms of disease development are neither completely identified for neurodegenerative diseases, nor for Covid-19 yet. In order to make further progress here, state-of-the-art research methods and technologies from molecular biology, genetics, bioinformatics and medical imaging are necessary, which the DZNE greatly can provide. 
  • The human immune system and its antibodies against pathogens from outside as well as against endogenous substances play important roles - both in neurodegenerative diseases and for various courses of Covid-19.
  • Elderly people are most affected by diseases such as Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, but also by severe Covid-19 courses. People with dementia are dependent on care, live in nursing homes to a large disproportionate extent, and thus carry a significantly higher Covid infection risk. 
  • Decoding these diseases is so complex that it cannot be solved by any one discipline alone or in a single institution - no matter how competent they may be. What is needed are coordinated, interdisciplinary approaches as well as collaborations between different, specialized partners. With its 10 sites in Germany and its nationally and internationally interconnected structure, the DZNE has been designed for this type of collaboration since its founding.


Since the outbreak of the pandemic, researchers at the DZNE have therefore also been contributing their expertise and resources to the global fight against Covid-19. According to the motto "While the world slowed down, science speeded up!”, researchers are working at full speed to provide scientifically sound answers and sustainably effective solutions to the global problem.


We have compiled a selection of published results for you



Research cooperations

The DZNE is part of a number of consortiums among universities, university hospitals, and other institutions coordinating their Covid-related research projects, resources, and results with each other.
> Press releases:

Antibody/passive vaccination

One of the ways for the body to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus is through antibodies. These can be produced with industrial precision and are thus suitable for passive vaccination, i.e. a defense against the coronavirus that is not triggered by the immune system itself. Researchers at the DZNE in Berlin have identified a number of suitable antibodies, confirmed their efficacy, and are now collaborating with a biotechnology company to develop a passive vaccination on this basis.
> Press release:


Immune response

Different people react in different ways to an infection with SARS-CoV-2. But why do some people hardly notice an infection, while in others it is severe or even fatal? Part of the answer lies in gene activity and immune system functioning. Researchers at the DZNE in Bonn, among others, have been investigating how this can lead to more precise, patient-specific treatments.
> Press releases:

Virus propagation / Molecular mechanics

Which factors favor the entry of the virus into the cell, which cell types are particularly at risk, and which reproductive mechanisms ensure a particularly effective replication of the viral genome in the infected cells? Researchers at various DZNE sites have found answers to these questions using molecular biological methods.  
> Press releases:


Health determinants and seroprevalence

More than 5,000 participants in a longitudinal study (the Rhineland Study in Bonn, Germany) were screened for current or past infection with SARS-CoV2 to examine the impact of general health, lifestyle, and immune status on disease progression.
> Press releases:

Citizen-Science-App: Corona and cognitive performance

An app developed jointly with a start-up at the DZNE site in Magdeburg is investigating whether and what effects a covid disease has on memory performance as part of a citizen science project.
> Press release:

Our publications in the context of DZNE-Covid research

Publication overview


Yuan M, Huang D, Lee CD, Wu NC, Jackson AM, Zhu X, et al. Structural and functional  ramifications of antigenic drift in recent SARS-CoV-2 variants. Science. 2021.

Trabelsi K, Ammar A, Masmoudi L, Boukhris O, Chtourou H, Bouaziz B, et al. Globally altered sleep patterns and physical activity levels by confinement in 5056 individuals: ECLB COVID-19 international online survey. Biology of Sport. 2021:495-506.

Trabelsi K, Ammar A, Masmoudi L, Boukhris O, Chtourou H, Bouaziz B, et al. Sleep Quality and Physical Activity as Predictors of Mental Wellbeing Variance in Older Adults during COVID-19 Lockdown: ECLB COVID-19 International Online Survey. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(8).

Skripuletz T, Mohn N, Franke C, Pruss H. Neuroimmunology of COVID-19. Nervenarzt. 2021:1-8.

Shan D, Johnson JM, Fernandes SC, Suib H, Hwang S, Wuelfing D, et al. N-protein presents early in blood, dried blood and saliva during asymptomatic and symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nat Commun. 2021;12(1):1931.

Schultze JL, Aschenbrenner AC. COVID-19 and the human innate immune system. Cell. 2021;184(7):1671-92.

Rohr S, Zulke A, Luppa M, Brettschneider C, Weissenborn M, Kuhne F, et al. Recruitment and Baseline Characteristics of Participants in the AgeWell.de Study-A Pragmatic Cluster-Randomized Controlled Lifestyle Trial against Cognitive Decline. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(2).

Ritschel N, Radbruch H, Herden C, Schneider N, Dittmayer C, Franz J, et al. COVID-19 and the central and peripheral nervous system. Pathologe. 2021;42(2):172-82.

Reusch N, De Domenico E, Bonaguro L, Schulte-Schrepping J, Bassler K, Schultze JL, et al. Neutrophils in COVID-19. Front Immunol. 2021;12:652470.

Rattay TW, Martin P, Vittore D, Hengel H, Cebi I, Tunnerhoff J, et al. Cerebrospinal fluid findings in patients with psychotic symptoms-a retrospective analysis. Sci Rep. 2021;11(1):7169.

Nikelski A, Trompetter E, Feldmann S, Whittaker ES, Boekholt M, Chikhradze N, et al. "You have to take it that way." A study of the subjective experience of the corona pandemic by older people in need of help and care living at home. Z Gerontol Geriatr. 2021:1-6.

Michalowsky B, Hoffmann W, Bohlken J, Kostev K. Effect of the COVID-19 lockdown on disease recognition and utilisation of healthcare services in the older population in Germany: a cross-sectional study. Age Ageing. 2021;50(2):317-25.

Meinhardt J, Radke J, Dittmayer C, Franz J, Thomas C, Mothes R, et al. Olfactory transmucosal SARS-CoV-2 invasion as a port of central nervous system entry in individuals with COVID-19. Nat Neurosci. 2021;24(2):168-75.

Liu H, Yuan M, Huang D, Bangaru S, Zhao F, Lee CD, et al. A combination of cross-neutralizing antibodies synergizes to prevent SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV pseudovirus infection. Cell Host Microbe. 2021;29(5):806-18 e6.

Kubon J, Sokolov AN, Popp R, Fallgatter AJ, Pavlova MA. Face Tuning in Depression. Cereb Cortex. 2021;31(5):2574-85.

Huber MK, Raichle C, Lingor P, Synofzik M, Borgmann S, Erber J, et al. Outcomes of SARS-CoV-2 Infections in Patients with Neurodegenerative Diseases in the LEOSS Cohort. Mov Disord. 2021;36(4):791-3.

Franke C, Pruss H. Letter to the Editor: Comment on Mulder J et al. Indirect immunofluorescence for detecting anti-neuronal autoimmunity in CSF after COVID-19 - possibilities and pitfalls. Brain Behav Immun. 2021;94:475.

Franke C, Ferse C, Kreye J, Reincke SM, Sanchez-Sendin E, Rocco A, et al. High frequency of cerebrospinal fluid autoantibodies in COVID-19 patients with neurological symptoms. Brain Behav Immun. 2021;93:415-9.

Ewers M, Ioannidis JPA, Plesnila N. Access to data from clinical trials in the COVID-19 crisis: open, flexible, and time-sensitive. J Clin Epidemiol. 2021;130:143-6.

Elezkurtaj S, Greuel S, Ihlow J, Michaelis EG, Bischoff P, Kunze CA, et al. Causes of death and comorbidities in hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Sci Rep. 2021;11(1):4263.

Campanella S, Arikan K, Babiloni C, Balconi M, Bertollo M, Betti V, et al. Special Report on the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Clinical EEG and Research and Consensus Recommendations for the Safe Use of EEG. Clin EEG Neurosci. 2021;52(1):3-28.

Besse M, Wiltfang J, Belz M, Signerski-Krieger J. Implementation of digital teaching in psychiatry as consequence of COVID-19: a comparative evaluation with classroom teaching. Nervenarzt. 2021:1-8.

Aziz NA, Corman VM, Echterhoff AKC, Muller MA, Richter A, Schmandke A, et al. Seroprevalence and correlates of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies from a population-based study in Bonn, Germany. Nat Commun. 2021;12(1):2117.

Aschenbrenner AC, Mouktaroudi M, Kramer B, Oestreich M, Antonakos N, Nuesch-Germano M, et al. Disease severity-specific neutrophil signatures in blood transcriptomes stratify COVID-19 patients. Genome Med. 2021;13(1):7.

Ammar A, Trabelsi K, Brach M, Chtourou H, Boukhris O, Masmoudi L, et al. Effects of home confinement on mental health and lifestyle behaviours during the COVID-19 outbreak: insights from the ECLB-COVID19 multicentre study. Biol Sport. 2021;38(1):9-21.


Tiedt S, Bode FJ, Uphaus T, Alegiani A, Groschel K, Petzold GC, et al. Impact of the COVID-19-pandemic on thrombectomy services in Germany. Neurol Res Pract. 2020;2:44.

Thyrian JR, Kracht F, Nikelski A, Boekholt M, Schumacher-Schonert F, Radke A, et al. The situation of elderly with cognitive impairment living at home during lockdown in the Corona-pandemic in Germany. BMC Geriatr. 2020;20(1):540.

Singh M, Bansal V, Feschotte C. A Single-Cell RNA Expression Map of Human Coronavirus Entry Factors. Cell Rep. 2020;32(12):108175.

Schulte-Schrepping J, Reusch N, Paclik D, Bassler K, Schlickeiser S, Zhang B, et al. Severe COVID-19 Is Marked by a Dysregulated Myeloid Cell Compartment. Cell. 2020;182(6):1419-40 e23.

Savastano A, Ibanez de Opakua A, Rankovic M, Zweckstetter M. Nucleocapsid protein of SARS-CoV-2 phase separates into RNA-rich polymerase-containing condensates. Nat Commun. 2020;11(1):6041.

Pavlova MA, Romagnano V, Fallgatter AJ, Sokolov AN. Face pareidolia in the brain: Impact of gender and orientation. PLoS One. 2020;15(12):e0244516.

Mok VCT, Pendlebury S, Wong A, Alladi S, Au L, Bath PM, et al. Tackling challenges in care of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias amid the COVID-19 pandemic, now and in the future. Alzheimers Dement. 2020;16(11):1571-81.

Mohn N, Pul R, Kleinschnitz C, Pruss H, Witte T, Stangel M, et al. Implications of COVID-19 Outbreak on Immune Therapies in Multiple Sclerosis Patients-Lessons Learned From SARS and MERS. Front Immunol. 2020;11:1059.

Mohn N, Konen FF, Pul R, Kleinschnitz C, Pruss H, Witte T, et al. Experience in Multiple Sclerosis Patients with COVID-19 and Disease-Modifying Therapies: A Review of 873 Published Cases. J Clin Med. 2020;9(12).

Maas R, Ramjith J, Klockgether T, Roes KCB, van de Warrenburg BPC. A word of hope for ataxia trials in COVID-19 time and beyond. J Neurol. 2020:1-3.

Kreye J, Reincke SM, Pruss H. Do cross-reactive antibodies cause neuropathology in COVID-19? Nat Rev Immunol. 2020;20(11):645-6.

Kreye J, Reincke SM, Kornau HC, Sanchez-Sendin E, Corman VM, Liu H, et al. A Therapeutic Non-self-reactive SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Protects from Lung Pathology in a COVID-19 Hamster Model. Cell. 2020;183(4):1058-69 e19.

Erdur H, Siegerink B, Leithner C, Franke C, Lorenz-Meyer I, Theen S, et al. Stroke Admissions, Stroke Severity, and Treatment Rates in Urban and Rural Areas During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Front Neurol. 2020;11:607193.

Dietzel S, Ferrando-May E, Fried H, Kukat C, Naumann A, Nitschke R, et al. A Joint Action in Times of Pandemic: The German BioImaging Recommendations for Operating Imaging Core Facilities During the SARS-Cov-2 Emergency. Cytometry A. 2020;97(9):882-6.

De Domenico E, Bonaguro L, Schulte-Schrepping J, Becker M, Handler K, Schultze JL. Optimized workflow for single-cell transcriptomics on infectious diseases including COVID-19. STAR Protoc. 2020;1(3):100233.

Cantuti-Castelvetri L, Ojha R, Pedro LD, Djannatian M, Franz J, Kuivanen S, et al. Neuropilin-1 facilitates SARS-CoV-2 cell entry and infectivity. Science. 2020;370(6518):856-60.

Bernardes JP, Mishra N, Tran F, Bahmer T, Best L, Blase JI, et al. Longitudinal Multi-omics Analyses Identify Responses of Megakaryocytes, Erythroid Cells, and Plasmablasts as Hallmarks of Severe COVID-19. Immunity. 2020;53(6):1296-314 e9.

Ammar A, Mueller P, Trabelsi K, Chtourou H, Boukhris O, Masmoudi L, et al. Psychological consequences of COVID-19 home confinement: The ECLB-COVID19 multicenter study. PLoS One. 2020;15(11):e0240204.

Ammar A, Chtourou H, Boukhris O, Trabelsi K, Masmoudi L, Brach M, et al. COVID-19 Home Confinement Negatively Impacts Social Participation and Life Satisfaction: A Worldwide Multicenter Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(17).

Ammar A, Brach M, Trabelsi K, Chtourou H, Boukhris O, Masmoudi L, et al. Effects of COVID-19 Home Confinement on Eating Behaviour and Physical Activity: Results of the ECLB-COVID19 International Online Survey. Nutrients. 2020;12(6).

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