Jan Van Den Abbeele

Jan Van Den Abbeele

Full professor

  • Nationalestraat

    2000 Antwerpen


1988 …2024

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research expertise

Jan Van Den Abbeele graduated as a zoologist and obtained a PhD in Biological Sciences at the University of Antwerp in 2001.

During this period, he was trained as a parasitologist and insect molecular biologist at the Unit of Entomology at Institute of Tropical Medicine and at the Laboratory of Molecular Parasitology (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium) where he studied different aspects of the development of the Trypanosoma brucei  parasite in the tsetse fly.

Currently, he is full professor at ITM and head of the Trypanosoma Unit. He is coordinator of the Group Protozoa of the BMS department, vice-chair of the Institutional Ethics board, and member of the ITM Policy Commission Research.   In November 2011, he was awarded with an ERC-Starting Grant/Consolidator with the project NANOSYM:
'Symbiotic bacteria as a delivery system for Nanobodies that target the insect-parasite interplay’.

His research focuses on African trypanosomes (Trypanosoma brucei sp. and T. congolense) , protozoan parasites that causes devastating diseases in humans (sleeping sickness) and livestock (Animal trypanosomiasis). It aims to improve our understanding of i) the parasite adaptive changes during key life cycle stages and its interplay with the host micro-environments and ii) the underlying mechanisms of parasite drug resistance. Besides this basic research, his unit develops and/or optimizes methods for improved sleeping sickness parasite diagnosis and molecular surveillance.

Since 2021, his unit is WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training on Human African Trypanosomiasis.

Current Research Themes

  • Trypanosome survival mechanism and adaptation to different host environments with focus on key stages in the parasite life cycle in the tsetse fly (metacyclic stage) and the mammalian host (early skin stage); role of trypanosome surface proteins during these key stages and their potential for vaccine-based targeting to block early infection after tsetse fly transmission;
  • The host skin immune environment after a trypanosome-infected tsetse bite;
  • Role of tsetse fly saliva in trypanosome development;
  • Mechanisms of drug transport and the acquisition of drug resistance in livestock  trypanosomes;
  • Development of molecular surveillance tools for T. brucei gambiense
  • Development and optimization of an anti-tsetse saliva ELISA as an epidemiological tool to measure tsetse fly exposure of the mammalian host population;
  • Genetical modification of Sodalis glossinidius to deliver trypanosome-targeting molecules (paratransgenesis).

ERC-NANOSYM project – BBC World 
EC-TRYRAC project (Trypanosomosis Rational Chemotherapy)

Teaching expertise

  • Laboratory diagnostics
  • Biological transmission of vector-borne diseases
  • African trypanosomiasis
  • Molecular biology

Education/Academic qualification



External positions

Guest Professor, Ghent University



  • B361-physiology-of-invertebrates
  • tsetse fly
  • trypanosome transmission
  • innate immunity
  • salivary gland proteins
  • bacterial symbionts
  • paratransgenesis
  • B750-veterinary-medicine
  • Animal African trypanosomiasis
  • Trypanosoma congolense
  • Trypanosoma vivax
  • drug resistance
  • genetic diversity
  • evolution and transmission dynamics
  • B780-tropical-medicine
  • Human African trypanosomiasis
  • Trypanosoma brucei
  • host innate immunity


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