Physics of Parasitism

Christoph G. Grevelding

Institute of Parasitology

Biomedical Research Center Seltersberg (BFS)
Justus Liebig University Giessen
Schubertstr. 81
35392 Gießen

Christoph G. Grevelding

… is a molecular biologist and parasitologist. He studied chemistry and biology at the University of Cologne and finished his studies with a biology diploma in 1988. He performed his doctoral thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Breeding Research in Cologne, in cooperation with the University of Cologne, and received his degree in 1991. After a postdoctoral period at the Max Planck Institute, he moved to the Institute for Genetics of the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf as a scientific assistant and started to work with schistosomes in 1994. In 1999, he passed his Habilitation and stayed at the University of Düsseldorf as an associate professor for five more years. In 2004, he was recruited to the Justus Liebig University Giessen as full professor for parasitology and parasitic diseases. From 2006-2011, he was the managing director of the Institute of Parasitology in Giessen. Since 2020, Christoph G. Grevelding is deputy chairman of the LOEWE Center DRUID, and since 2022 he is chairman of Section-2, “Infection and Immunity” of the International Giessen Graduate Centre for the Life Sciences (GGL).  


Since 2022 Chairman of Section-2, “Infection and Immunity” of the International Giessen Graduate Centre for the Life Sciences (GGL).  

Since 2020 Deputy Chairman of the LOEWE Center DRUID, Justus Liebig University Giessen

2004-today full professor for parasitology and parasitic diseases, Justus Liebig University Giessen

1999-2004 Associate Professor at the Institute of Genetics, Heine University Düsseldorf

1999 Habilitation in Genetics

1994-1999 Research Assistant, Heine University Düsseldorf

1991-1993 PostDoc, Max Planck Institute Cologne

1991 Doctoral degree, Max Planck Institute Cologne/University Cologne

1988 Diploma (Biology) University Cologne

Research synopsis

The research focus of my group is Schistosoma mansoni, a parasitic flatworm that not only threatens millions of people worldwide but also wild and domestic animals. Besides its medical relevance as the cause of schistosomiasis (bilharzia), schistosomes exhibit biological peculiarities. They are the only dioecious (two sexes) members of the platyhelminths, with all other species being hermaphrodites. Another biological oddity of schistosomes is the male-induced sexual maturation of the female. The reproductive organs of the female develop only as a consequence of constant pairing contact that can last over many years. This is a prerequisite for egg production, but also a reversible process. Upon separation from its male partner, the female degenerates sexually, and egg production will stop. Re-pairing, however, restarts differentiation of the reproductive organs in females, and egg production will be resumed.

Egg production is required for the maintenance of the schistosome life cycle, and it is equally important for the pathological consequences of schistosomiasis (bilharzia). Only some of the many eggs produced reach the environment via faeces or urine. The other eggs can lodge in inner organs of patients where they induce severe inflammatory processes. When they lodge in the the liver, liver fibrosis is a final consequence. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), > 700 million people live in endemic areas where schistosome infections can occur. Large regions of Africa, South America and Asia are affected. Recently, the first autochthonous cases in Southern Europe have been reported, which indicates the possibility of schistosomiasis occurrence also in moderate climate zones. The WHO estimates that about 240 million people suffer from schistosomiasis and require medical treatment. A vaccine is not yet available, and praziquantel is the only available drug against all schistosome species.

Our work covers basic and applied aspects of schistosome research such as the identification of drug targets and new compounds with potential effects against adult and larval stages of S. mansoni. Furthermore, we recently discovered a link between schistosome infection/egg production and the onset of proto-oncogene activity in hepatocytes, which points to processes associated with schistosome infection-promoted carcinogenesis. The main focus of our work in basic science is the elucidation of the bidirectional molecular processes during the exceptional male-female pairing of S. mansoni. To this end, we have performed adult and organ-specific transcriptomics. Our results provided not only new evolutionary insights but also, together with functional gene analyses, the first evidence for the contribution of neuronal processes in the male-induced sexual maturation of the female. Because of the intimate contact between male and female schistosomes we assume that mechanical forces may contribute to the pairing-dependent reproductive biology of S. mansoni, which we intend to investigate in more detail in Project 10 of the SPP 2332.