Moleculaire Parasitologie

!!Postal address
Nationalestraat 155
2000
Antwerp
België
Contact

Telefoon: +32(0)32470794

Onderzoeksexpertise

Frederik Van den Broeck graduated in Evolutionary Biology at the University of Leuven in 2009. In 2010, he was awarded a VLADOC PHD fellowship to study the disease outbreak dynamics of the worm Schistosoma mansoni in Northern Senegal, where he spent many months for sampling parasites. He obtained his PhD degree at the University of Leuven in May 2014.

Since then, he is a post-doctoral researcher specialized in parasite genetics within two units at ITM, namely the Unit of Molecular Parasitology led by Prof. JC Dujardin and the Unit of Veterinary Protozoology led by Prof. J. Van Den Abbeele. He is mainly working on neglected tropical diseases such as (Muco-)cutaneous leishmaniasis or espundia and Animal African Trypanosomiasis or nagana.

In 2016, he was awarded an AAP post-doctoral mandate from ITM and an individual Research Grant from the Research Foundation Flanders to study the neglected mitochondrial genome of kinetoplastid parasites, complementary to the nuclear genome, within the context of the population biology, hybridization and drug resistance of Trypanosoma and Leishmania parasites.

 

Current research projects

Frederik is particularly interested in bridging evolutionary genetics and infectious disease control. He wants to understand how pathogens evolve in nature, addressing questions such as: how do parasites become drug-resistant? Which genes are involved? What is the role of parasite sex in spreading drug resistance genes in natural populations? Answering these questions with genomic data could provide new hope in controlling or even eliminating diseases. He is currently working on the following projects:

  • Genomic consequences of hybridization in parasitic protozoa (T. congolenseL. braziliensis / L. peruviana, including the study of heteroplasmy and biparental inheritance of mitochondrial genomes.
  • Phylo-genomics of L. braziliensis and L. peruviana, including LRV (Leishmania RNA virus) co-evolution and the role of genomic erosion in diminishing pathogenicity of Muco-Cutaneous Leishmaniasis.

 

PhD

During his PhD, he used genetic markers to retrospectively gain insight into the evolution and epidemiology of intestinal schistosomiasis in Northern Senegal. The construction of two water barrages in the Senegal River Basin in the 1980’s radically changed the environment resulting in one of the most severe epidemics of schistosomiasis.

Frederik designed genetic markers (chapter 2) to reconstruct the history of this epidemic (chapter 3) and explore the impact of host-specific factors (chapter 4) and drug treatment (chapters 5 and 6) on parasite genetics. Following genetic analyses of historical and contemporary samples, he showed that the epidemic was triggered by many different parasite strains that were probably introduced by seasonal workers from neighboring regions (these findings were cited in several Belgian newspapers such as De Morgen and De Standaard. In addition, he found that drug treatment had no effect on the genetics of parasites sampled from 12 children that were monitored for over two years. His PhD concluded that the Schistosoma populations in northern Senegal retained a large genetic repertoire, allowing the selection of epidemiological relevant traits such as drug resistance or virulence, and underlining the complexity of controlling schistosomiasis.

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