Annelies Zinkernagel

On and in our bodies live 10 times more bacteria than we have cells. Nevertheless, we don't fall ill very often due to bacterial infections, because we live in a balance with our "bacterias". Some of these bacteria do not always benefit us, but can harm us, such as staphylococci and streptococci. We investigate why and how these bacteria make us so successfully ill.


MD PhD and PhD student 
Master students of biology


Group members

​Currently at the Karolinska-Institute, Stockholm/Sweden

Tel. +41 44 255 12 56


Bacterial virulence factors

To circumvent the human immune system, pathogens express a wide array of virulence factors. A better understanding of how these virulence factors work, how they are influenced by the environment as well as whether the presence of antibiotics modulates their activity and expression, is of great importance to fine-tune the therapy against bacterial infections in the best possible way. In particular considering the worldwide increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria, both Gram-positive (e.g. Staphylococci) as well as Gram-negative (e.g. Pseudomonas), requires the establishment of new treatment.

Bacterial persistence in humans

Relapse rates of Staphylococcus aureus infections are high despite in vitro effective antibiotic treatment. The ability of Staphylococcus aureus to persist within host cells protects bacteria from the host immune system as well as from extracellular active antibiotics. Aiming to reduce relapse rates we are investigating the underlying mechanism of bacterial persistence and aim to optimize current treatment strategies.

Biofilm: Pathogenesis, Diagnosis and Therapy

Many chronic infections are caused by the presence of a bacterial biofilm. A biofilm is an agglomerate of microorgansims, which can attach to biotic or abiotic surfaces and to each other, and are embedded in a matrix. The matrix enables the microorganisms to protect themselves from both the immune system and from the action of antibiotics. We are studying microorganisms sampled directly from biofilms by looking at their pathogenicity and behavior in various milieux, thereby searching for better diagnosis and treatment options for biofilm infections.

Collaboration Research

All our projects are supported through interdisciplinary collaborations with other laboratories. We are collaborating with other hospitals as well as research groups at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. In addition we have collaborations with research groups in Germany, France and the USA.

Open positions

MD PhD and PhD students
Biology master students


How to find us

The Lab is located at the University Hospital Zurich in the Labortrakt (F39, F41, F42 and F44).
Sternwartstrasse 14, Labortrakt F44
CH-8091 Zürich
Phone: +41 44 255 12 59

For public transport use tram number 5 or 6 and get off at the stop „Plattenstrasse". Enter the University Hospital via the Entrance to the east, take the corridor to the right and use the elevator on the far end of the corridor to reach floor F.

Our lab meetings are held in the library of the of the clinic of infectious diseases in the main building at the University Hospital Zurich, Rämistrasse 100, RAE U 85, CH-8091 Zurich

For public transport use tram number 6, 9 or 10 and get off at the stop "ETH/Universitätsspital". Enter the main entrance of the hospital, immediately turn right along the ramp, take the door to the right and take the steps down to level U. The meeting room is located in the right hallway and labeled as "U RAE U 85".

Contact address

Prof. Dr. med. Annelies Zinkernagel
Division of Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiology
University Hospital Zurich
Rämistrasse 100
CH-8091 Zürich

Tel +41 44 255 12 59
Fax +41 44 255 32 91