ITM 54th Annual Colloquium

Theme 2:

Adaptation of the vertebrate host to pathogens

When the vertebrate host is exposed to a pathogen, the host protects itself with a fast first line innate immune response and, if required, a more effective but slower, tailor-made adaptive immune response.  Host susceptibility and resistance to pathogens are continuously shaped by infections and genetically transferred to the next generation(s).

In this session, we will focus on the broader aspects of host adaptation to pathogens, so moving away from the classical description of cellular and humoral responses to a particular pathogen during infection. 

Four  presentations will be dedicated to the shaping of the immune system by a particular pathogen (HIV, helminthes, Trypanosomes) or by vaccination.  One presentation is dedicated to curing the incurable (e.g HIV) through artificial accelerated shaping of the immune system via immunotherapy. 

Dr. Jayne Sutherland

The TB paradox: dynamic and functional immune responses do not equal protection

Dr. Jayne Sutherland, PhD is the interim head of the Tuberculosis (TB) Immunology group at the MRC Unit in The Gambia, West Africa.

Her PhD project (Monash University, Australia) involved enhancing immune system regeneration following ablation with chemotherapy for cancer. She moved to The Gambia in 2006 to take up a position as an immunologist involved in the Gates Grand Challenge for TB, a multi-site consortium for TB biomarker discovery.

Her primary research interest is TB diagnostic development and elucidating protective immune responses for novel vaccine design. Other interests include studies of antigen diversity; latency in TB; immunity at the site of infection; strain differences in immune responses; and immunity to TB in the context of HIV co-infection.

The TB Immunology laboratory is also involved in novel TB vaccine trials and analysing the non-specific effects of BCG vaccination in newborns.

Picture of Jayne Sutherland

Dr. Guido Vanham

Perspectives for a “functional cure” for HIV infection

Guido Vanham graduated as an MD in 1980 at KULeuven and is presently the head of the Virology Unit at ITM. 

His research focuses on translational aspects of prevention and therapy of HIV, including prophylactic as well as therapeutic vaccination and development of microbicides.  The principle of his immunotherapeutic approach is to load natural antigen-presenting cells with messenger RNA, encoding HIV structural proteins.

Together with other approaches, these efforts should result in “functional cure”, a state of HIV suppression without the continued need for anti-retroviral drugs.   

Picture of Guido Vanham

Prof. Dr. Ir. Stefan Magez

Induction of inflammation as a response to trypanosome infections: consequences for parasitemia control, susceptibility for secondary infections and pathology

Prof. Dr. Ir. Stefan Magez has been involved in trypanosome research since 1991. He mainly focuses on the host immune response to infection. In particular, he studied the role of inflammation in infection control in his laboratory. More recently his research has addressed the impact of trypanosomiasis on the host B-cell response and the effect of trypanosomiasis on immunological memory and vaccine efficacy. Besides fundamental research, the laboratory of Dr. Magez is involved in development of Nanobody-based diagnostic tools for parasitic diseases as well as in the development of Nanobody-based drug targeting.

Picture of Stefan Magez

Dr. Wim Jennes

KIR/HLA: human natural selection in the face of the HIV epidemic

Dr. Wim Jennes graduated as a bio-engineer in Chemistry and Microbiology at the University of Leuven in 1998 and obtained a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Antwerp in 2003.

He performed doctoral studies at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp and at the field laboratories of the Centers for Disease Control in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, investigating correlates of protection against HIV in high risk populations.

Wim is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Tropical Medicine involved in projects related to resistance to HIV infection and HIV pathogenesis. His focus is on innate immunity: HIV restriction factors, KIR/HLA diversity, and NK cell function.

Picture of Wim Jennes

Dr. Anna Rosanas Urgell

Human genetic polymorphisms and susceptibility to malaria.

Dr. Anna Rosanas Urgell graduated as a Biologist by the University of Barcelona and obtained a PhD in Genetics by the same university in 2004.

She spent two years as a Post-doctoral researcher in the University of São Paulo investigating P. vivax spleen evasion mechanisms and establishment of chronic infections, and conducted 6 months of fieldwork with the Hospital of Tropical Medicine in Manaus.

After that, she moved to the Institute of Medical Research in Papua New Guinea and was appointed as the Head of the Molecular an Epidemiology Unit in 2009. Her research interest has been focused in the investigation of red blood cells polymorphisms associated with susceptibility to malaria in different PNG populations and the transmission dynamics of P. falciparum and P. vivax with special interest in the contribution of liver-stages to the burden and complexity of P. vivax infection and disease.

Recently, she joined the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp as an assistant professor and Head of the Unit of Malariology.

Picture of Maria Yazdanbakhsh