Department of Natural Focal Infections

One of the institute’s oldest departments. Established by Academician Evgeny Nikanorovich Pavlovsky in 1933.

Over the years, the department was headed successively by Academician E. N. Pavlovsky, Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences Polina Andreyevna Petrishcheva, Professor Valent Viktorinovich Kucheruk, Professor Yury Grigorievich Chernukha, Professor Yury Anatolyevich Dubrovsky; From 2000 to 2020, the department was headed by Professor Eduard Isaevich Korenberg, Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation and Academician of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences.

In April 2020, Artyom Petrovich Tkachuk, PhD in Biological Science was appointed head of the department.

The main task of the department is to develop the general biological and epidemiological foundations of the work done by Academician E.N. Pavlovsky on the natural focus of diseases; the study of the epidemiology and epizootology of the most common natural focal infections in Russia and their etiology, as well as the taxonomy and ecology of the causative agents of these infections, the patterns of the structure and functioning of the parasitic systems they form; the development of methods, strategies and tactics for the prevention of natural focal infections.

The department contains:

  • a laboratory of ecology of infectious agents

  • a laboratory of infection vectors;

  • a laboratory of ecology of rickettsia;

  • a leptospirosis laboratory;

  • a tularemia laboratory;

  • a laboratory of protozoal infections.

The department supplies work to a problem committee on natural focal human diseases

The problem committee is chaired by Professor E. I. Korenberg.

Laboratory of Ecology of Infectious Agents

The laboratory is headed by S.A. Yermolayeva, Doctor of Biological Sciences. 

The laboratory was established by Professor V.Y. Litvin, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, who headed it for many years. The main direction of research was the study of the ecology of pathogenic bacteria in soils and water bodies as a fundamental basis for epidemiological studies of natural focal sapronous infections.

During this time, an experimental analysis of the population dynamics of causative agents of sapronosis as linkages of soil and aquatic ecosystems was carried out, and the interaction of bacterial populations with the components of soil and water biocenoses was studied, taking into account the effect of abiotic environmental factors.  Experimental data has been used to construct mathematical models of interpopulation relationships in the process of the circulation of pathogens in biocenoses and their transmission along trophic chains.  The laboratory has studied the mechanisms of the long-term reservation of pathogenic bacteria in natural foci and the role of this phenomenon in the development of epidemics and epizootics.

At present, the laboratory is studying the molecular biological and genetic mechanisms that enable the ecological plasticity of pathogens of natural focal infections.  The mechanisms of intracellular parasitism are being investigated as part of the concept of random parasitism of human and animal sapronosis pathogens formulated by Professor V.Y. Litvin.  The role of essential pathogenicity factors in the process of parasitism in warm-blooded hosts for the survival of microorganisms in natural biocenoses is being assessed.

Another area of contemporary research involves the study of the mechanisms regulating the expression of pathogenicity factors of the facultative intracellular parasite Listeria monocytogenes - the causative agent of human and animal listeriosis, depending on external conditions.

Laboratory website:

Laboratory of Infection Vectors

The oldest laboratory in the department. Established in 1933.  The laboratory was headed successively by: Academician E. N. Pavlovsky; P.A. Petrishcheva, Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences; I.M. Grokhovskaya, Doctor of  Biological Science. Since 1979 it has been headed by Professor E. I. Korenberg, Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation, Academician of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and Doctor of Biological Science.

The results of the laboratory's scientific work at various stages are summarized in 14 monographs.

The goal of the laboratory’s work is to study the functional significance of arthropods in maintaining parasitic systems and reproducing the population of pathogens of obligate transmissible infections ecologically associated with ticks, as well as the patterns of epidemic manifestation of the natural foci of these infections.

Current priority areas of research:

  • Etiology, epizootology and epidemiology of ixodic tick-borne borreliosis;

  • Identification of natural foci of ehrlichiosis in Russia, species diversity of pathogens, their carriers and reservoir hosts;

  • Functional patterns of mixed parasitic systems and the epidemiology of mixed infections transmitted by ticks.

The laboratory functions as the Russian Ministry of Health's center for borreliosis. It has its own museum of Borrelia, whose collection currently contains about 600 primary isolates and is constantly growing.

Laboratory of Ecology of Rickettsia

The laboratory is headed by A.V. Kostarnoi, PhD in Biological Science.

The laboratory was established in 1972 by Professor I.V. Tarasevich, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who headed it until early 2014. From 2014 to 2018, the laboratory was headed by S.N. Shpynov, Doctor of Medical Science.

The main area of research is the analysis of the patterns of circulation and geographical distribution of rickettsia, coxiella and bartonella to humans in order to substantiate the prognosis and development of measures for the prevention and diagnosis of infections caused by these pathogens.

Research includes: study of the etiological and spatial structure of populations of rickettsia and coxiella; natural and anthropurgic foci of rickettsioses, coxiellosis and bartonellosis; identification of potentially dangerous geographical areas in relation to these infections; assessment of the influence of natural and social factors on the populations of rickettsia and coxiella and their foci.

Over the years, the laboratory staff have studied rickettsioses and coxiellosis in Armenia, Moldova, Uzbekistan, the Tajik SSR, and Moscow.
 The largest outbreaks of Q fever in Crimea, the Voronezh Region and the Altai Territory have been analyzed and explained.

Rickettsioses new to science have been identified and described: Astrakhan spotted fever and Far Eastern rickettsiosis. Their pathogens have been isolated from patients, carriers and their hosts.

More than 100 strains of Rickettsia and Coxiella have been isolated and deposited in a museum of rickettsial cultures.

Serological research methods are being improved.   A technique has been developed for obtaining nanoparticle-labeled rickettsia antigens for nanoagglutination reaction.

An inactivated combined particulate vaccine from Coxiella Burnetii against Q fever has been developed.  The development is protected by a Russian patent.

The laboratory is the Russian Ministry of Health's center for rickettsioses; in 1972-2008 it operated as a WHO Collaborating Center for rickettsia and rickettsioses; it has carried out active international scientific cooperation in field and laboratory research with specialists from the USA, France, Japan, Mongolia, and Slovakia.

The results of the laboratory’s research are summarized in more than 20 monographs, textbooks and manuals.

Laboratory of Leptospirosis

The laboratory is headed by N.E. Sharapova, PhD in Biological Science.

The Laboratory of Leptospirosis was established in 1936. It was headed successively by: Professor S.I. Tarasov, Professor V.I. Terskikh, Professor V.V. Ananyin, and Professor Y.G. Chernukha.  From 1990 to 2018, the laboratory was headed by Professor Y.V. Ananyin, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The laboratory’s main directions of research are:

  • Ecology and genosystematics of pathogenic leptospira; the study of their species and intraspecific diversity;

  • Features of the epidemic manifestation of natural and man-made foci of leptospirosis;

  • Study of the etiopathogenesis of leptospirosis;

  • Development of new methods of laboratory diagnostics and means of specific prophylaxis.

In recent years the laboratory has:

  • obtained experimental evidence of selective tropism of pathogens of certain serovars to the tissues of the central nervous system of mammals of susceptible species with a degree of infectious sensitivity to leptospirosis;

  • studied the comparative diagnostic efficiency of PCR analysis and immunoserological methods in various forms of leptospirosis, depending on the phase of the infectious process;

  • developed a diagnosticum (Bayram-Ali-antigen) for the microagglutination reaction, intended for screening studies for leptospirosis in laboratories equipped to any level;

  • collaborated with the Rostov Institute of Microbiology and Parasitology of the Ministry of Health and Social Development of Russia to develop and introduce into practical healthcare a new concentrated vaccine for immunizing people against leptospirosis.

The laboratory functions as the Russian Ministry of Health’s center for leptospirosis.  It holds a national and international collection of Leptospira, containing more than 700 reference strains and field isolates.

Since 1964, the laboratory has functioned as a WHO Collaborating Center for the epidemiology of leptospirosis. The center was formerly headed by Y.V. Ananyina, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Member of the International Subcommittee on the Taxonomy of Leptospira.

Laboratory of Tularemia

The laboratory is headed by A.S. Semikhin, PhD in Biological Science.

The first tularemia laboratory in Russia was created in 1929 at the Microbiological Institute of the People's Commissariat of Healthcare of the RSFSR. In 1931 it was transferred to the L.A. Tarasevich Research Institute and in 1937 it was relocated to the All-Union Institute of Experimental Medicine. Since 1945 it has operated as part of the N.F. Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Electromechanics.  From 1929 to 1948 the laboratory was headed by the prominent scientist L.M. Khatenever.  During this period, almost all scientific and applied aspects of the problem were studied intensively: epidemiology, microbiology, immunodiagnostics, therapy, prevention; the first diagnostic and therapeutic preparations were developed.  The most important and priority discovery was the creation by N.A. Gaysky and B.Y. Elbert of a live tularemia vaccine, which remains the main means of preventing tularemia to the present day.

From 1949 to 1988, the laboratory was headed by Professor N.G. Olsufyev, Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences. This stage was marked by major fundamental and applied developments, many of which were priority areas and retain their relevance today. During this period a practical theory for the typification of natural foci of tularemia was scientifically substantiated and implemented for the first time. Infection was modeled in various wild animals and an original concept of the intra-taxonomy of the causative agent of tularemia was developed, which was subsequently confirmed with the help of modern molecular genetic research methods.  The laboratory has created a system of methods for the immunological diagnosis of tularemia, based on effective test systems and widely used in practice. The fundamental and research and practice developments of the laboratory led to the creation of scientifically based strategies and tactics for combating tularemia in the latter decades of the 20th century.

From 1988 to 2016, the laboratory was headed by I.S. Meshcheryakova, Doctor of Biological Science.

The laboratory’s main scientific directions are:

  • Search for and study of pathogenicity factors of the tularemia pathogen; revealing the role of surface structures (outer membrane proteins and LPS) in the pathogenesis and immunogenesis of infection;

  • Creation of new-generation vaccines based on the obtaining of vaccine strains with the desired properties;

  • Study of the mechanisms of persistence of the pathogen in the human body, animals and its long-term preservation in the external environment;

  • Use of the pFNL10 plasmid first discovered in the laboratory in molecular genetic research, specifically in order to create recombinant vaccine strains for the prevention of especially dangerous infections;

  • Development of modern molecular biological methods for short-term indication and identification of the tularemia pathogen and differentiation of its intraspecific taxa, as well as for early diagnosis of the disease.

Since 2000, the laboratory has ensured the functioning of the Russian Ministry of Health’s tularemia center and provides organizational, methodological, and advisory assistance to practical healthcare in order to improve epidemiological surveillance and prevention of tularemia in Russia.

Laboratory of Protozoal Infections

The laboratory is headed by D. B. Goncharov, PhD in Biological Science.

The laboratory was established in 1957 for a comprehensive study of toxoplasmosis; in 1979 it was re-designated for the study of leishmaniasis.  Until 1989, the laboratory was headed by Professor V.M. Safyanova.   At that time, the laboratory was the WHO regional center for leishmaniasis and carried out a number of projects under the WHO World Bank. The priority areas of research were the taxonomy of leishmanias and species-specific serodiagnostics and seroepidemiology of leishmaniasis.  From 1989 to 2005 the laboratory was headed by Professor Y.A. Dubrovsky. During these years, the laboratory studied the epidemiology and epizootology of toxoplasmosis and cryptosporidiosis, and developed new methods for laboratory diagnosis of these diseases.

The laboratory staff found that natural foci of cryptosporidiosis are found in all zones of Eurasia.  A wide range of intraspecific variability of Cryptosporidia in terms of virulence was revealed.  The main patterns of Toxoplasma infection in the population of different regions of the Russian Federation and possible risk groups have been identified. Test systems for serological diagnosis of toxoplasmosis have been developed, and have found application in the practical healthcare system of the Russian Federation and a number of CIS countries.  To increase the diagnostic specificity of acute toxoplasmosis, the laboratory developed a "trap" method using the membrane antigen P-30; a PCR-based test system for the identification of Toxoplasma in human tissues was created and tested.

The laboratory is currently studying the state of cellular and humoral immunity in toxoplasmosis; the features of the functioning of the cytokine regulatory network and the possibility of using interferon inducers in the therapy of the disease are being assessed; development is underway on the creation of a vaccine. Laboratory models are being used to investigate the relationship between toxoplasma infection and aging factors.

In order to develop a set of measures for the prevention of protozoal infections, studies are planned to assess the role of toxoplasmosis in human infectious pathology, to study the taxonomy of cryptosporidium and the variability of pathogens.

The laboratory staff have prepared methodological recommendations on the problem of toxoplasmosis.   The team has taken part in parliamentary hearings on the prevention of parasitic diseases in the Russian Federation.