Research team

Global Health Institute (GHI)

Expertise

My main expertise lies in bio-statistical support, designing and implementing (clinical) epidemiological study designs and conducting clinical trials (Phase 1-2-3). (Development of) molecular tools are incorporated in the majority of our studies. Apart from malaria related research (main expertise), I’ve set up research lines on NCDs, cervical cancer diagnosis & treatment, vaccine development, Infectious disease prevention & control (IPC), etc. with colleagues with complementary expertise. Ongoing collaborations in DRCongo (ebolavaccin), Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda, Peru, Ethiopia,... I consider health & education as two of the main drivers of development and have the privilege to work as a researcher on the interface of these two domains. Conducting academic activities with colleagues from and in LMICs creates a new generation of academics. They train the next generations of graduates and professors. In addition, they may invent home grown solutions, may give a sound expert advice to their policy makers taking into account their local needs and interests. It provides also a powerful academic network. Societal relevance and local ownership are import assets and academic initiatives need to be demand and need driven. Previously fifteen years of operational experience in humanitarian aid and emergency preparedness (including; outbreak of IP site, investments and control, including cholera, measles, , meningitis, malnutrition, ...)

Intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in school children: from research into policy. 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2025

Abstract

Malaria remains a major public health threat despite considerable progress on control in the past decade. We, and others, demonstrated that the burden of malaria in school aged children is substantial with significant consequences later on in life. Recent decreases in the malaria burden puts school-aged children increasingly more at risk for malaria. The mainstay for malaria control includes use of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), indoor residual spraying (IRS), prompt diagnosis and treatment with an effective antimalarial drug . Malaria control interventions often target vulnerable populations, pregnant women and children under-fives or targets the population at large. Yet, these interventions have a weak coverage in school aged children and no malaria control interventions specifically target in school-aged children. In 2012, we started field work on this theme in DR Congo, a high malaria endemic setting, and proved that Intermittent preventive treatment in school children (IPTsc) is an efficacious and feasible intervention. These findings are confirmed by others and at present, we're conducting similar research in different sociocultural and epidemiological settings in Ethiopia and North East Tanzania. This PhD proposal will provide required additional information to translate evidence gathered in previous research into policy. We will identify models of within-host dynamics of Plasmodium falciparum that have been fitted to parasite density profiles from malaria therapy patients, and simulations of P. falciparum epidemiology fitted to field malariologic datasets from a large ensemble of settings across Africa. We will use this models to assess the relative and absolute contribution of schoolchildren (6-12 yrs) on malaria transmission in different malaria endemic settings taking into account the (effectiveness of) other interventions. We hypothese that school aged children, who represent 26.8% of the population though over 40% of both the malaria reservoir and burden, are a main driver of malaria transmission. Further, will the selected integrated mathematical models be used for predicting the epidemiologic and economic effects of IPTsc both at the individual and population level. The models will provide a unique platform for predicting both the short- and long-term effects of IPTsc on the burden of disease, allowing for the temporal dynamics of effects on immunity and transmission. We'll perform a sensitivity analyses taking into account adherence, school attendance rates, drug resistance rated and thus assess the impact of IPTsc on the malaria burden and transmission at population (i.c. impact on population level R0-rates). It should be mentioned that in the last decades school attendance rates have raised to over 95% in most LMICs (though drop-out rates are still substantial). Finally, the chosen model will obtain robust cost-effectiveness estimates for IPTsc delivery strategies in different eco-epidemiologic settings. We will be able to rank IPTsc amongst other health interventions and stipulate its contributing role to attain several Sustainable Development Goals' (SDGs). In parallel, this PhD-program will be involved in 4 case studies in 4 different settings (Ethiopia, Tanzania, DR Congo and Burkina Faso) in which we will assess the possible institutional implementation modalities. This health (and educational) system analysis is a key element. Many evidence based policy recommendations have suboptimal coverage or are, in practice not implemented as it is not clear which department or control program should take up this additional intervention, determine the possible supply channels, reporting, training programs and resources needed. We will also at least explore how an IPTsc could be the nucleus, together with existing helminth control programs, for a comprehensive (institutionalized) school health program (i.e. including immunization activities, oral health, vision screening, health education, etc…).

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Bringing a prophylactic Ebola vaccine to licensure (EBOVAC3). 01/06/2018 - 31/05/2023

Abstract

The overall aim of EBOVAC3 is to support an essential part of remaining clinical and manufacturing activities required for licensure in the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) of a candidate heterologous prime-boost prophylactic vaccine regimen against Ebola virus disease.

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Sustaining, deepening and expanding the Sub-Saharian HPV research network (WAKA-HPV Africa). 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

Almost 90% of deaths from HPV-related invasive cervical cancer (ICC) worldwide occur in developing countries and ICC is a main cause of morbidity and mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, in SSA, we observe a significant lack of ICC knowledge among health care workers. Furthermore, academic ICC expertise is also completely missing, undermining any effort to strengthen the health care capacities. Local academic expertise is also vital for National policy makers and public opinion. In 2013, we established the WAKA network to train African based researchers till a post-doc level, to stimulate international South South collaboration and to support local laboratory facilities (www.wakahpvafrica.com). Several students from SSA are in a doctoral trajectory and the WAKA network gained significant recognition (i.e. WHO). This proposal wants to continue, deepen and expand this network until a level of self-sustainability.

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Project website

Scaling-up Packages of Interventions for Cardiovascular disease prevention in selected sites in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa: An implementation research (SPICES) 01/01/2017 - 30/06/2022

Abstract

The overall research objective of the SPICES project is to implement and evaluate a comprehensive CVD prevention and control program in five settings: a rural & semi-urban community in a low-income country (Uganda), middle income (South Africa) and vulnerable groups in three high-income countries (Belgium, France and United Kingdom) as well as to identify and compare the barriers and facilitators across study contexts. The project will be evaluated using a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods. At the beginning of the project, we will conduct baseline assessments including literature reviews, formative studies, household surveys (where feasible) and learn lessons from other projects to understand healthcare and lifestyle practices, barriers, and facilitators. A costeffectiveness and cost benefit analysis will be included. In addition, the teams will conduct site exchanges visits to learn from each other and organise policy dialogues to ensure sustainability and maximise impact of the interventions.

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Project website

Phase III partner programme for Institutional University Cooperation with Université de Burundi (2017-2020) 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

This project is the third phase of a long term, institutional cooperation programme between a number of Flemish universities and the public university 'Université du Burundi', based in Bujumbura. The programme spans a period of ten years in total, ending with this third phase, and covers five different areas of scientific cooperation, including law, agronomy, physics, medecine and ICT. In addition, the project contributes to capacity-building of the partner university in its research capacities, i.a. through the establishment of a Doctoral School (Ecole doctorale). The project is part of the VLIR-UOS country programme with Burundi.

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Joint project to strenghten research skills on molecular epidemiology and to uncover malaria transmission features relevant for its control in the Peruvian Amazon. 13/03/2016 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

The present project seeks to fulfil the academic capabilities of UNAP by improving quality of research and education. The project relies in the formation of a triangular structure of academic and educational collaboration between the UNAP (public university, academically weak but with high potential as key player in the development of Amazon population), UPCH (well-stablished university will lead UNAP on the project) and UA (supporting the capacity building). The VLIR Sl project will strengthen the academic and operational capacities on molecular epidemiology through active coaching and training in epidemiology, biostatistics and population genetics. From the start of the project UA will provide support to the Peruvian partners on population genetics analysis for which a computer cluster and the respective training will be provided in Peru.

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    Creation of an interdepartemental clinical research unit at the faculty of medicin at the university of Lubumbashi 13/03/2016 - 31/12/2017

    Abstract

    La RD Congo et l' l'Université de Lubumbashi (UNILU) souffrent d'une grave carence du personnel compétent en recherche scientifique clinique de qualité internationale et en relève académique; surtout en pathologies infectieuses. Ce projet initial vise à créer une unité de recherche clinique à la Faculté de médecine de l'UNILU. Pour s'y faire, ce projet permettra la formation du personnel académique dans la conduite des recherches cliniques mais aussi en épidémiologie et statistiques. La formation du personnel scientifique se concrétisera par la réalisation de 7 projets de recherches sélectionnés de manière compétitive avec un sup-port adéquat de laboratoire. Les récipiendaires bénéficieront des cours ad hoc et d'un encadrement des professeurs de l'UA, de l'UNIKIN et de l'UNILU afin de pouvoir continuer avec leur projet de recherche jusqu'au niveau doctoral..

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      Phase II partner programme (2015-2019) for the Institutional University Cooperation between the University of Limpopo and the Flemish universities. 01/04/2015 - 31/12/2019

      Abstract

      This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VLIR. UA provides VLIR research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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      De contrôle van rievieren-epilepsie van de rivieren in DRCongo 01/04/2015 - 31/12/2016

      Abstract

      Notre projet a pour but d'aider les chercheurs de l'Université de Kisangani dans leurs efforts d'identifier la cause de l'épilepsie des rivières qui est un problème de santé publique majeur, récemment détecté dans la Province Orientale dans une région hyper-endémiques pour l'onchocercose (maladie parasitaire qui cause la « cécité de rivières ») et de développer une stratégie pour diminuer la souffrance et la stigmatisation lié à l'épilepsie des rivières.

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        South Sudan Nodding Syndrome Study: A study into the epidemiology, aetiology and outcome of nodding syndrome in South Sudan. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2017

        Abstract

        Background: Nodding syndrome (NS) is a life threatening neurological disorder, currently affecting an increasing number of children between 5 and 15 years in South Sudan, Northern Uganda and Southern Tanzania. NS is characterized by head-bobbing spells often followed by other types of seizures, developmental retardation and growth faltering. In the affected regions, NS is becoming a major public health problem with high morbidity and mortality rates and with severe social-economic implications. Despite detailed investigations in a limited number of Ugandan children, the aetiology and pathogenesis of NS remains unknown. Aside from questions regarding the aetiology, questions regarding the disease incidence, prevalence and long-term course remain outstanding. Proposed study: It is proposed to conduct an integrate program combining a case- control design with a detailed descriptive study using a phased approach. In the first phase a pathogen discovery programme will be applied on a limited number of NS patients and a group of controls using state of the art next generation sequencing and microarray-based methods on samples obtained from children and black flies. The focus of the second phase of the study will depend, in part, on the outcome of first phase: If a possible pathogen is identified the focus in the second phase will be on further identification of this pathogen. If no pathogen is identified, a detailed descriptive aetiology studies will be started using a case- control design and investigating all possible aetiologies previously indicated. Irrespective of the outcome of phase 1, in the second phase a surveillance study will also be started of all NS cases in the four most affected counties of South Sudan, next to a long term follow up of a selected group of NS cases and controls. This 3 years program will be conducted in close collaboration with South Sudanese, Dutch and Belgium NS and paediatric research experts and will be built on existing NS research and support activities already in place in South Sudan. Expected outcome: There is a significant chance that the true aetiology and the risk factors for NS will be identified and that the NS epidemiology in South Sudan will be clarified with respect to incidence, prevalence and disease progression. In addition, the study will create a platform for treatment intervention studies and will inform local health authorities how to improve their disease management and prevention strategies.

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          Appui scientifique pour la realization du project interdisciplinaire/interuniversitaire en santé maternelle à Unikin et à Unilub 01/12/2014 - 30/11/2018

          Abstract

          This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VLIR. UA provides VLIR research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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            Joining efforts to detect and control Plasmodium falciparum resistance in East and Central Africa. 01/07/2014 - 30/06/2016

            Abstract

            This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VLIR. UA provides VLIR research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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              The control of intestinal worms and schistosomiasis in Burundi. 01/02/2014 - 01/12/2017

              Abstract

              The final aim of this research will be to provide new strategies and tools to detect schistosomiasis in a context in which the estimated current prevalence is below 10%. This project will provide a proof of principle of new possible approaches in alternative to blanket mass drug administration in view of the elimination of schistosomiasis and possibly other worm infections in Burundi.

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                Bridging the gap between clinical epidemiological research and the community by strengthening community health research. 01/07/2013 - 30/06/2018

                Abstract

                Despite evidence based policies, drug availability for most common diseases varies dramatically from place to place. Furthermore, health professionals have acquired limited competences to manage an operational district after graduation. Through qualitative and quantitative research projects we will assess various human behavioural aspects which may affect directly or indirectly the genesis and spread of drug resistance. Equally, we will assess the quality and quantity of the medicines availabele and assess the level of drug resistance of circulating pathogens.

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                  The relevance of the family in adressing food, health and environment insecurity. 01/04/2013 - 31/03/2019

                  Abstract

                  This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VLIR. UA provides VLIR research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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                  Reinforcement d'une unité de recherche clinique à l'UNIKIN, en République Démocratique du Congo. 01/06/2012 - 30/05/2015

                  Abstract

                  This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VLIR. UA provides VLIR research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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                    Public health interventions. 09/12/2011 - 08/06/2012

                    Abstract

                    This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Erasmus Mundus. UA provides Erasmus Mundus research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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                      European and South African HIV co-infection research consortium (ESAHIV coinfRes). 01/11/2011 - 31/10/2015

                      Abstract

                      The overall aim of the proposed staff exchange program is to establish a long lasting collaboration between South African and European research teams involved in HIV coinfection research. This effort ultimately should lead to new ways to improve the care/treatment for patients with HIV co-infections and to decrease the high mortality among persons with HIV infection in Africa.

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                        The impact of retreatment with an artemisinin-based combination on malaria incidence and its potential selection of resistant strains. 29/09/2011 - 30/06/2013

                        Abstract

                        The overall goal of the project is to identify if first line ACT can be safely and efficaciously used to retreat children with recurrent malaria occurring beyond 14 days after initial treatment and consequently preserve quinine for severe malaria treatment.

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                          The impact of artesunateamodiaquine retreatment and specific malaria humoral immunity on recrudescent malaria infections. 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2013

                          Abstract

                          We will compare, in a non-inferiority, randomised, controlled trial, in Congolese children under 5 years of age, the efficacy of ASAQ to quinine as a rescue treatment for uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria. Additionally, given the key role of humoral immunity in protecting against malaria, we will assess antibody levels to merozoite antigens and VSAs in Congolese children under 5 with uncomplicated malaria and their association with anti-malarial treatment outcome.

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                            Phase I partner programme (2010-2014) for Institutional University Cooperation between University of Limpopo, Republic of South Africa and the Flemish Universities. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2014

                            Abstract

                            This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VLIR. UA provides VLIR research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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