The Unit of Helminthology, housing both Medical and Veterinary Helminthology, is led by Prof K. Polman, epidemiologist/parasitologist. We are dedicated to improving the lives of neglected populations affected by helminthiases. Our aim is to understand the dynamics and interactions of helminth infections at the interface between humans, animals and their broader natural and social environments, and to devise tools and strategies for prevention, control and/or elimination. We do this by interdisciplinary research, combining field epidemiology with lab-based tools and modelling, and applying a whole system approach.
Research activities within our unit focus on human and zoonotic helminth infections of public health importance, such as schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths, taeniasis/cysticercosis, and fascioliasis.
Our current research lines include:
-Transmission dynamics: Dynamics of endemic and (re-)emerging helminthiases across time-space scales, before and after intervention, and in different ecological settings.
-Interplay of helminthiases with other health problems: Co-infections/polyparasitism and how these impact on epidemiology, transmission and control in (co)endemic areas; Helminth-nutrition interactions;
-Prevention and control strategies: How helminth (co-)infections shape disease epidemiology and influence the efficacy and sustainability of control; Integrated strategies (including one health, ecohealth and multidisciplinary/multisectoral approaches) for prevention and sustainable control.
-Tool development: Development, optimization and evaluation of tools for diagnosis, monitoring, and epidemiological research on helminthiases.
Our research is closely linked with our training, teaching, and capacity strengthening and service delivery activities:
Besides supervising students at different levels (bachelor, master and PhD), we teach in various postgraduate and master courses (on helminthology, parasitology, neglected tropical diseases, vector-borne diseases, epidemiology, statistics) at ITM, the University of Antwerp, Ghent University, and the VU University Amsterdam. At ITM, we are also course director of the Master of Science in Global One Health (MSGOH), course leader of Sustainable Approaches to Infectious Disease Control and Elimination (SDC) within the Master of Public Health, and coordinator of the Vector-borne Diseases module within the Introduction to International Health course (IIH), and the modules Basic Epidemiology, Advanced Epidemiology, Helminthology of the MSGOH.
We are actively involved in various international cooperation and development programs with partners in Cuba, DRCongo, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South-Africa and Vietnam. Activities include building, reinforcing and supporting research capacity, mainly through training and by joint research.
We host the National Reference Laboratory for Trichinella (NRLT) and other parasites. The NRLT provides support and guidance to Belgian routine laboratories, through training, communication sessions, provision of technical and scientific advice, control visits, organization of ring tests and confirmation and further examination of suspected cases of trichinellosis. The Belgian NLRT is part of a European network on food-borne parasites (EURLP).
Please do not hesitate to email us for more information.