Infectious Diseases

The Section Infectious Diseases is a relatively new unit, within the Institute of Health Sciences/Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences. Our research focuses on the epidemiology of parasitic diseases, with a main line of research being the interaction of helminth diseases with nutrition. Secondary lines of research are related to infectious disease and child growth. Ongoing field research takes place in Cuba and Guatemala with additional collaborations in South Africa, India and Uganda.

In Cuba, we aim to shed more light on the complex interaction of atopic diseases and helminth infection by means of clinical-epidemiological studies in schoolchildren from urban and rural municipalities with different endemicities for helminths. Since 2003, two groups of children have been followed up to determine the geographical and epidemiological association between helminthic infections and atopic diseases and to examine the effect of anthelminthic treatment and reinfection on (changes in) atopy. For the collection of data on allergic symptoms and helminth infections different standard methods are used and compared. Also, different intervention strategies for helminth control are tested and evaluated. Since 2006 the project has been extended with a nutritional component to examine helminth-nutrition interactions in relation to atopy (in collaboration with the INHA, Havana). For this, baseline studies have been performed in 2009. Data are currently being analysed and reported on. For this project we collaborate intensively with the Institute of Tropical Medicine of Antwerp (Belgium) and the National Institute for Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology (INHEM) in Havana, Cuba.

In Guatemala, we participate in research combining qualitative and quantitative methods. The aim of the study is to identify early child feeding practices associated with diarrheal infection. The qualitative research will be used to develop intervention strategies to promote infant feeding practices to reduce risk of child infection and improve child nutrition. This research is a collaboration with The Center for Studies of Sensory Impairment, Aging and Metabolism (CeSSIAM) in Guatemala. 

In South Africa we collaborate with researchers from North West University working in a context of a high prevalence of HIV. In this context, research relates to the issues of HIV in relation to obesity prevention, body composition, child growth and nutrition related chronic disease. In addition, researchers from the section of infectious disease have collaborations with the World Health Organization, the World Food Program, International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) Europe and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) in India and Uganda.