NTDs and Translational Immunology

Understanding the immunology of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) is one of the cornerstones for the development and design of new therapeutic strategies for affected populations. Using samples from human cohorts and from experimental mouse models of infection, and employing novel technologies, we investigate determinants of the host’s immune responses to the causative agents of the most relevant NTDs (e.g. schistosomiasis) to draw on the potential translational aspects in the fight against NTDs.

Key questions

Vaccines are one of the most important public health interventions and hence maintaining vaccine efficacy is key to the control and elimination of infections especially in LMIC settings. The evidence from our working group’s animal models demonstrates that co-infection with helminths profoundly affects immune responses to bystander antigens including vaccines. However, clinical studies in humans have so far not yielded a clear picture due to many overlapping helminth, vaccine, and study design factors, and the diverse characteristics of the populations that are studied. Hence, there is the need to systematically review and comprehensively and quantitatively analyze the impact of helminth infections on the immune response to and efficacy of vaccines in humans in order to inform the design of future studies such as investigating the effects of interventions, for e.g., the administration of anti-helminthic treatments before, during, or after vaccination; or the overall impact of underlying helminth infections in adults on novel vaccines such as against malaria and COVID-19 in resource-poor settings.

Current projects in NTDs and Translational Immunology

  • The dynamic of macrophage activation during schistosomiasis and reinfection
  • Characteristics of the immune responses in HIV patients with Taenia solium (neuro)cysticercosis and during anti-helminthic treatment
  • Helminth-derived lipid mediators and extracellular vesicles as modulators of Treg induction and implication for immunotherapy
  • Investigating the impact of helminths on vaccine responses and efficacy