The Unit of Veterinary Protozoology of the Department of Biomedical Sciences performs basic and translational research on vector-borne protozoan parasites of veterinary or zoonotic importance such as African trypanosomes.
Research activities of the unit focus on African trypanosomiasis aiming to understand the molecular mechanisms and evolution of drug-resistance in animal African trypanosomes and the molecular dialogue between the parasite and the host (tsetse fly as well as the mammalian host) as key component in the pathogen transmission.
The Unit is led by Jan Van Den Abbeele.
Main research topics
- Molecular basis of drug resistance of Trypanosoma congolense and T.vivax, its transmission dynamics and evolution in the natural environment; development of molecular tools to monitor drug resistance in natural parasite populations;
- The tsetse fly immune system to control the development of the trypanosome parasite in the alimentary tract and salivary glands;
- Early development of the T.brucei parasite in the mammalian host at the tsetse fly biting site and the role of the host innate immune system; modulation of the host hemostatic reactions and innate immune responses by tsetse fly salivary components.
- Development and optimization of an anti-tsetse saliva ELISA as an epidemiological tool to measure tsetse fly exposure of the mammalian host population
- Biology and control of Sodalis glossinidius, a bacterial symbiont in the tsetse fly, and its interaction with trypanosome development.
- Genetical modification of Sodalis glossinidius to deliver trypanosome-targeting molecules such as Nanobodies® (paratransgenesis)