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Assessment of Zoonoses


Two out of three pathogens which cause infectious diseases in humans can be transmitted from animals. A known example is the infection by Salmonella, referred to as salmonellosis. Diseases which are transmitted by animals to humans are called zoonoses. An annual BfR report informs consumers about their spread.

What are zoonoses?

The term zoonosis is derived from the Greek terms zoon (living organism) and nosos (disease). Zoonoses are infectious diseases which are caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi, prions or viruses and can be reciprocally transmitted between animals and humans.

Transmission from animals to humans

Almost two-thirds of all known human pathogens – pathogens which can cause a disease in humans – are transmitted from animals to humans.

Transmission can be by direct contact, via foods, e.g. milk, eggs, meat or other foods but also via vectors (e.g. ticks, midges).

As a result of rapid population growth, increasing mobility, changed animal breeding and husbandry as well as climatic changes, zoonoses become increasingly significant.

Practically all new pathogens of the past years but also many topical infectious diseases are zoonoses. This includes, for example, the infectious disease SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

What does BfR do?

BfR conducts research on zoonoses, both in the field of zoonotic agents as well as in the field of the spread of pathogens (epidemiology), the transmission paths and the development of diagnostic methods suitable for daily use (reference laboratories).

The Institute has already submitted numerous studies on the spread of zoonotic agents. You can find them as PDF documents here.

Reports about zoonoses

BfR prepares an annual report on the epidemiological situation of zoonoses in Germany.

The corresponding data are collected from the monitoring authorities of the Federal States based on the Zoonoses Monitoring Directive, the Infection Protection and Epizootic Diseases Act as well as the Food and Feed Code (LFGB) and passed on to BfR.

BfR evaluates the data and compiles them together with data which are made available by other federal agencies and the national reference laboratories for the national report about trends and sources of zoonoses, zoonotic agents, antimicrobial resistance and food-borne outbreaks.

Applied research

The zoonoses research of BfR is primarily applied research. BfR is only engaged to a limited extent in fundamental research.

BfR also hosts national reference laboratories for different zoonotic agents.

Legal bases

  • Zoonoses Monitoring Directive (Directive 2003/99/EC) [external]
  • Zoonoses Control Regulation (Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005)
  • Commission Decision on harmonised monitoring of antimicrobial resistance in Salmonella (2007/407/EG)
  • General Administrative Regulation Zoonoses Food Chain
  • Infection Protection Act
  • Epizootic Disease Act
  • Food and Feed Code



Date Title Size
FAQs on anthrax and possible contamination of foods with Bacillus anthracis 33.9 KB



Date Title Size
BfR communication No 036/2014
Anthrax outbreak in Slovakian cattle herd: health hazard to consumers from meat brought into Germany unlikely 29.1 KB


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