Virology expert with a particular focus on (re)emerging viruses. Specific interest in Ebola virus, arthropod-borne viruses such as Chikungunya, dengue, Zika among others, and SARS-CoV-2. Main expertise in studying virus-host and virus-insect vector interactions, in assessing humoral immune responses and in developing novel diagnostic methods applicable in a low resource setting and under outbreak circumstances.
Peptide-based diagnostics for re-emerging flaviviruses of significant public health concern.
AbstractFlaviviruses, a large group of arthropod-borne viruses transmitted by Aedes mosquito vectors in both tropical and subtropical areas, pose an increasing threat for human health. Most of the arboviral infections are either asymptomatic or present with rather mild symptoms during the acute phase. Nevertheless, a fraction of the patients develops complications with severe neurotropic illness or hemorrhagic disease in the post-acute phase. As up to 400 million people are infected with a flavivirus annually around the globe, still a considerable number of patients will evolve to more severe disease. Although for dengue virus (DENV) specifically, the vaccine Dengvaxia® was approved for use in several endemic regions, it's administration is restricted to people who experienced a prior dengue infection because of safety precautions. With other flavivirus vaccines in different stages of clinical development and also specific antiviral treatments under development, such as for example the highly potent anti-DENV compound (JNJ-64281802), there is a need for highly specific and sensitive diagnostic tools to enable correct serostatus determination and to triage patients for treatment. Although molecular diagnostic tests based on RT-qPCR have an excellent sensitivity and specificity, their application is limited to the short viremic period and to a laboratory setting that enables molecular testing. To date, the vast majority of the laboratory diagnoses relies on serology based tests, especially in low and middle income countries in endemic areas.(6) Serology is often problematic due to the high antigenic resemblance of co-circulating flaviviruses such as DENV, Zika virus (ZIKV) and yellow fever virus (YFV). In an attempt to overcome these problems, researchers at the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) explored the diagnostic potential of antigenic regions at higher amino acid resolution. Several flavivirus-specific peptides as well as cross-reactive peptides were identified during microarray screenings and confirmed in bead-based multiplex immunoassays, showing a promising improvement compared to the performance of current commercial serological tests for DENV. Starting from the earlier identified peptides for DENV1-4, and based on the expertise and experience of Janssen in biomarker development, we aim to identify peptides for ZIKV and YFV in new microarray screenings, and strive to optimize DENV, ZIKV and YFV peptide biomarkers for diagnostic test development, by detailed epitope identification, by mapping virus-specific and cross-reactive epitopes, and by evaluating single- and multiple epitope-peptide hits in multiplex immunoassays. We aim to convert our findings into applicable immunological test format such as peptide ELISA's and ultimately lateral flow assay (LFAs) that allow to discriminate between DENV serotypes, ZIKV and YFV, as well as employ broadly recognized epitopes (for PanDenv and PanFlavi applications). Finally, we aim to evaluate the prototype diagnostic assay (ELISA or LFA) in a reference setting such as the ITM in Antwerp and in endemic settings in Peru and in the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC).
- Promoter: Ariën Kevin
- Research Project
An innovative photoelectrochemical biosensor for pathogen detection (InnoPath).
AbstractInnoPath proposes an innovative technology using low-cost, accurate, rapid, easy-to-use and robust attributes of singlet oxygen based photoelectrochemistry to offer more precise, sensitive and affordable diagnostics in lab and point-of-care settings. Benchmarked against gold standard real time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), the technology will be validated for pathogen detection using patient samples. A similar point-of-care or syndromic technology for common pathogens causing acute tropical fever, with comparable or better sensitivity than PCR and cost similar to existing rapid diagnostic tests, is not available today. InnoPath aims to improve patient care and reduce the impact of infectious diseases. Furthermore, it could advance epidemiological surveillance, timely detection of outbreaks and implementation of control measures. This project aims to 1) deliver a proof-of-concept for the photoelectrochemical detection of three common pathogens causing acute tropical fever and 2) demonstrate the feasibility of translating groundbreaking technology into a biosensor for pathogen detection. This project is a strategic collaboration with the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp (ITM), building on a technology platform of the University of Antwerp.
- Promoter: De Wael Karolien
- Co-promoter: Ariën Kevin
- Research Project