Infection and Ageing Biology


Our vision is to prevent the negative impact of infectious diseases on ageing and thereby increase healthy productive years of human life through research that will decrease the health care burden as a major benefit for individuals as well as for the whole society.



Global prevalence of chronic diseases is increasing and projected to increase substantially over next two decades. Infectious diseases could potentially reduce lifespan by contributing to ageing process and adding miles to the biological clock. However, one of the presently most intriguing and yet most challenging questions in ageing and medicine research is how infections effect on the body, and how such costs eventually lead to organ dysfunction, physiological degeneration, susceptibility to other diseases and senescence. For a long time, chronic diseases have been considered harmless however, recent research rejects this hypothesis by showing that even mild chronic infection is connected with accelerated cellular ageing (telomere degradation) and eventually reduce lifespan (Asghar et al 2015, Science). These findings have changed the notion, how we look upon causes, consequences (and precautions) of mild infectious, activated immune system and degenerative diseases.

However, it is presently not clear how infectious diseases impact the body and how such costs eventually lead to a long-term cost, leading to the organism’s physiological degeneration, organs dysfunction and senescence. My group is specifically targeting these questions in an integrative approach by combining epidemiological, cellular and experimental approaches together with cutting-edge techniques to explore several hallmarks of ageing, including telomere length, telomerase activity, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, epigenetic alteration (DNA methylation and gene transcriptional alterations) and cellular senescence, with clearly set out goals to break new ground in cross-disciplinary area of ageing and infectious diseases. One key target is to understand how different hallmarks of ageing are interconnected with each other and what is their relative contribution in healthy ageing and diseases.



Ageing: Long-term hidden cost of infection

  • Long-term effect of chronic and repeated malaria infections on cellular ageing: Epidemiological approach.

  • An interplay between inflammation, oxidative stress and cellular senescence in controlled human malaria challenge (CHMI): Experimental approach.

  • Effect of different human pathologies on cellular ageing in different immune cells: Longitudinal prospective studies approach.

  • Biological ageing and allostatic load induced by bacterial and viral infections in experimental murine models: A whole body approach.


Effect of physical exercise on cellular ageing: Sport science


Cellular ageing in neurodegenerative diseases

  • Association between cellular ageing and Parkinson's disease

  • Association between cellular ageing and intercranial aneurysms


Funding and Awards

2018: Appointed Ragnar Söderberg Fellow in Medicine

2018: VR-Starting Grant as a Principal Investigator

Karolinska Institutet KID-grants, 2017 and 2019

2015: Postdoctoral fellowship from the Swedish Society for Medical Research

Stiftelsen Sigurd och Elsa Goljes Minne

2015: KATMA Award from Cooper Ornithological Society USA for the best scientific publication of 2015.



Asghar Muhammad

Born and raised in Punjab, Pakistan, Dr Asghar received his Beholder degree from Pakistan. Dr Asghar received his master and PhD degrees from Lund University, where he worked on host parasite coevolution. Dr Asghar joined Division of Infectious Diseases, Karolinska Institutet as post-doctoral fellow to study the effect of infectious diseases on cellular ageing. Dr Asghar served the Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet as Assistant Professor for two years and now he is a Senior Researcher and Group leader. His lab is exploring one of the fundamental questions in biomedicine, how infectious diseases affect the host and how such cost eventually lead to a hidden long-term devastating outcome for host fitness and survival. Dr Asghar is a pioneer researcher in cross disciplinary area of Infections and Ageing Biology research. Dr Asghar love nature, reading, traveling and music.


Selected publications

Asghar M, Hasselquist D, Hansson B, Zehtindijiev P, Westerdahl H, Bensch S. Hidden cost of infection: Chronic malaria accelerates telomere degradation and senescence in wild birds. Science. 2015 Jan 23; 347, 436-438

Asghar M, Yman V, Homann MV, Sonden K, Hammer U, Hasselquist D, Färnert A. Cellular aging dynamics after acute malaria infection: A 12-month longitudinal study. Aging Cell. 2018 Feb; 17, 1-8

Chamorro CI!, Asghar M!, Ekblad Å, Färnert A, Götherström C, Fossum M. Urothelial cell senescence is not linked with telomere shortening. 1–10. J Tissue Eng Regen Med. 2019.  1-10.

Asghar M, Bensch S, Tarka M, Hansson B, Hasselquist D. Maternal and genetic factors determine early life-telomere length. Proc R Soc B. 2015 Jan 22, 282(1799): 20142263

Asghar M, Palinauskas V, Zaghdoudi-Allan N, Valkiu¯nas G, Mukhin A, Platonova E, Färnert A, Bensch S, Hasselquist D. Parallel telomere shortening in multiple body tissues owing to malaria infection. Proc R Soc B. 2016 Aug 17;283: 20161184

Karell P, Bensch S, Ahola K, Asghar M. Pale and dark morphs of tawny owls show different patterns of telomere dynamics in relation to disease status. Proc R Soc B. 2017. Jul 26; 284 (1859)

Homann MV, Emami SN, Yman V, Sonden K, Ramström H, Karlsson, Asghar M#, Färnert A#. Detection of Malaria Parasites After Treatment in Travelers: A 12-months Longitudinal Study and Statistical Modelling Analysis. EBioMedicine. 2017 Nov; 25: 66-72

Asghar M, Hasselquist D, Bensch S.  Are chronic avian Haemosporidian infections costly in wild birds? J Avian Biol. 2011 Oct; 42, 530-537.

Westerdahl H, Asghar M, Hasselquist D, Bensch S. Quantitative disease resistance: to better understand parasitemediated selection on major histocompatibility complex.  Proc R Soc B. 2012 Feb 7; 279, 577-584.

Sonden K, Wyss K, Viera de Silva A, Pohanka A, Asghar M, Homann MV, Gustafsson LL, Helgren U, Färnert A. High Rate of Treatment Failures in Nonimmune Travelers Treated With Artemether- Lumefantrine for Uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum Malaria in Sweden: Retrospective Comparative Analysis of Effectiveness and Case Series. Clin Infect Dis. 2017 Jan 15;64, 199-206.