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    2000 Antwerpen


Organisation profile

Organisation profile


The Unit of Zoonoses, running the biomedical activities of the former Units of Medical and Veterinary Helminthology, is led by Dr. V. Dermauw, veterinarian/statistician. The Unit of Zoonoses is dedicated to combatting key zoonotic parasitoses.

Zoonotic parasites are an important group of pathogens, thriving at the interface between humans, animals and the environment. These parasites, often characterised by complex multi-host life cycles, cause neglected diseases with a considerable public health and economic impact worldwide. Addressing these pathogens inherently requires an integrated One Health approach, recognising the interconnectedness of human, animal and environmental health.

Our primary focus is to study the impact of these diseases on the human and animal hosts, and to identify the animal, vector, and environmental factors driving the persistence and transmission to humans.

Main activities

Research activities within our unit focus on key zoonotic helminth infections of public health importance, prioritised by the WHO, such as taeniasis/cysticercosis, echinococcosis, and food-borne trematodiasis (e.g., fascioliasis).

Our current research lines include:

  • Transmission dynamics: Unravelling the animal, vector, and environmental factors driving the persistence and transmission to humans, through integrated multi-host studies.
  • Diagnostic tool development and refinement: Optimisation of current existing techniques as well as pursuing novel diagnostic techniques for detection of infection in humans, animals and vectors, and contamination of food sources.
  • Impact zoonotic parasitoses for the human host: Assessing the occurrence, distribution and consequences of zoonotic parasites in the human hosts, to describe the width of these diseases and consequent health impact.

Overall, our research aims to advance insights on transmission dynamics and health impact of zoonotic parasites. By developing and refining diagnostics and detection tools and investigating the impact of animal, vector, and environmental factors, we strive to prevent and control zoonotic parasite infections, ultimately leading to improved human health outcomes.

Education and training activities

Besides supervising students at different levels (bachelor's, master's and PhD), we teach in various postgraduate and master courses (on helminthology, parasitology, neglected tropical diseases, vector-borne diseases, epidemiology, statistics) at ITM, the University of Antwerp, and Ghent University. At ITM, we are also course director of the Master of Science in Global One Health (MscGOH), and course coordinator of the modules Basic Epidemiology, Advanced Epidemiology, and Applied Helminthology of the MscGOH.

Capacity strengthening and service delivery

We are actively involved in various international cooperation and development programmes with partners in South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia and Vietnam. Activities include building, reinforcing and supporting research capacity, mainly through training and joint research.

We host the National Reference Laboratory for Trichinella (NRLT) and other parasites. The NRLT provides support and guidance to Belgian routine laboratories, through training, communication sessions, provision of technical and scientific advice, control visits, organisation of ring tests, and confirmation and further examination of suspected cases of trichinellosis. The Belgian NLRT is part of a European network on food-borne parasites (EURLP). We also perform specialised examination of clinical samples sent by the Clinical Reference Laboratory of ITM.

Our research is closely linked with our training, teaching, service delivery, and capacity strengthening activities. Moreover, we collaborate with other groups and departments along cross-cutting themes. Examples are collaborations with the Tropical Infectious Diseases Research Group (e.g., prof. K. Polman) and the Clinical Tropical Medicine Research Group (e.g. prof. E. Bottieau).


Please do not hesitate to e-mail us for more information.


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