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Our immune system plays a central role in our health. From birth to old age, our immune system must constantly adapt to the new environment and learn to fend off threatening influences such as infections or cancer cells and, on the other hand, must not trigger any excessive reactions.

Univ.-Prof. Dr.Dr. Wolfram HötzeneckerPräsident der Österreichischen Gesellschaft für Allergologie und Immunologie (ÖGAI)

Immunology Day is celebrated worldwide on April 29. This day of action aims to raise awareness of the importance of immunology and immunological research in the fight for lifelong health maintenance and individual well-being.

This year’s theme is: Immunity and Ageing: Navigating the Science of Aging and Immunology!

The Austrian Society for Allergology and Immunology (ÖGAI) is the national expert platform for scientifically proven information on immunology topics and provides recommendations for both doctors and the general public free of charge.

Worldwide, the proportion of the population aged over 60 is increasing rapidly. By 2030, it will already be around one third. The performance of the immune system can decline, especially in old age. This year’s “Day of Immunology” is dedicated to the topic of healthy ageing and provides information on how the immune system influences the ageing process.

Research groups in Austria are also working on this topic. The Research Institute for Biomedical Aging Research at the University of Innsbruck, for example, aims to help people to grow old with dignity and good health. The aim of the research is to investigate ageing processes at a molecular, cellular and organismic level in order to better understand age-related changes and impairments. Prof. Dr. Birgit Weinberger’s working group is researching, for example, immune responses after booster vaccinations such as tetanus/diphtheria, which can be insufficiently effective, particularly in older people. As part of a large European consortium(VITAL), the research group is investigating the immune response after influenza and pneumococcal vaccination in different age groups. “A better understanding of the basic mechanisms of immune responses and in-depth analyses of vaccine-induced immune responses in older adults are crucial for the development of optimal vaccines for this age group,” explains Weinberger.

Intestinal bacteria have an influence on healthy ageing

Our immune system is in constant contact with the microbes that surround and live with us. For example, the intestinal barrier plays a special role in health and disease. In addition to the immune system, the cellular junctions of the intestinal mucosa and the microbial composition of the intestinal bacteria also change in old age. “Studies on centenarians provide insights into the characteristics of the intestinal barrier that are associated with longevity,” reports Prof. Dr. Eva Untersmayr-Elsenhuber, Head of the Gastrointestinal Immunology Research Group at MedUni Vienna. The knowledge gained so far could help to define strategies for preventing the development of diseases in older people. Targeted measures to improve the general barrier function will therefore be important disease prevention strategies for healthy ageing in the future.

More experts for Austria’s allergy sufferers

Pollen allergies, as well as food and drug allergies, are plaguing more and more people. In order to respond to the constant demand for experts in this field, additional training for allergologists has been introduced in Austria, as is already the case in other European countries. The first graduates of the new specialization are expected this year. This is urgently needed, as this field is constantly facing new challenges due to changes in pollen count in times of climate change, new invasive species and changing living conditions such as increased urban living environments.

About the Immunology Day

The Day of Immunology was initiated by the European Federation of Immunological Societies(EFIS) and took place for the first time on April 29, 2005. It has been celebrated worldwide since 2007. The day is intended to raise public awareness of the importance of immunology and immunological research as a basis for the fight against infections, cancer and autoimmune diseases. Although health issues are often in the public eye, people without a scientific background often miss out on the knowledge and importance of the relevance of immunological research and findings. We encounter “fake news” almost every day, especially in non-scientific media. Scientists therefore use the Day of Immunology to communicate their ever-growing knowledge and understanding of the immune system to an audience outside the scientific community.

About the Austrian Society for Allergology and Immunology (ÖGAI)

The ÖGAI has been the platform for Austrian immunology for more than 50 years. The society brings together scientists and doctors who deal with the immune system and its diseases. “Our immune system plays a central role in our health. From birth to old age, our immune system must constantly adapt to the new environment and learn to fend off threatening influences such as infections or cancer cells and, on the other hand, must not trigger any excessive reactions“, says ÖGAI President Prof. Dr. Dr. Wolfram Hötzenecker. Should problems arise in this complex interplay, immunology is called upon to recognize faulty reactions in order to be able to treat them in a targeted manner.

The ÖGAI’s motto is: “Life for research. Research for life”. Its goal has always been to promote interdisciplinary education and training and, in particular, the next generation of scientists in order to further improve the lives of patients with allergies and immune diseases. The “Next Generation Immunologists” group in particular is very active here with funding programs and meetings. A gender equality task force was also established to promote gender equality and career development.

The ÖGAI is well networked worldwide with the societies for allergology and immunology and will in future expand its cooperation with other specialist areas such as dermatology, rheumatology, vaccinology, pediatrics, gastroenterology, occupational medicine and general medicine, as well as aerobiology and environmental medicine – above all in order to comply with the One Health concept. After all, the health of humans, animals and the environment is closely linked.


Query note:

Prof. Dr. Dr. Wolfram Hötzenecker
President of the Austrian Society for Allergology and Immunology (ÖGAI)
T: 01/405 13 83 DW 21 (ÖGAI Secretariat, Ms. Serfezi)

Elisabeth Leeb
T: 0699/1 424 77 79