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Prof. Dr. Erika von Mutius 

Paediatrics, Allergology, Epidemiology, University of Munich Hospital

Prof. Dr. Erika von Mutius

Prof. Dr. Erika von Mutius

© DFG / Thomas Dashuber

Medical doctor Erika von Mutius has made fundamental discoveries related to the formation and treatment of lung disease in children, for which she is being awarded the Leibniz Prize. Starting with clinical observations, she performed large-scale epidemiological studies that revealed clear connections between environmental factors and pathogenesis. Perhaps her most important experiments involved allergic asthma in children, the frequency of which has risen continuously for approximately 30 years. A large number of studies point to genetic factors and environmental influences. In a large-scale comparative study, Erika von Mutius was able to prove that, for example, high levels of environmental pollution in the area of Leipzig, Germany did not lead to an elevated appearance of asthma in children compared to the city of Munich. Instead, a major finding of studies like these is that children who grow up in rural settings, and particularly in proximity to animals, have a lower allergic disposition. Mutius investigated the underlying causes for this and discovered that these are highly significant for the role that hygienic conditions for newborns and small children play in the formation of allergies.

Erika von Mutius' scientific and medical home is the University of Munich (LMU) and its Dr. von Haunersche Children's Hospital. With the exception of a research fellowship at the University of Arizona in Tuscon, she completed every major station of her career at the LMU, including paediatric medical training, the role of senior physician and director of outpatients, and ultimately her habilitation. Mutius has been a professor for paediatrics at LMU as well as at the Dr. von Haunersche Children's Hospital since 2004, specializing in paediatric pneumology and allergology. Her work has received consistently high regard internationally and has been recognised with numerous awards.