Dr. Bruno Levecke (Ghent University) receives Merial Award for Parasitological Research
On 20 May 2016, the Netherlands Society of Parasitology and the Belgian Society of Parasitology and Protistology awarded the Merial Award to Dr. Bruno Levecke for his research in parasitology, particularly for his ongoing work on helminth infections in tropical countries at Ghent University (Laboratory of Parasitology of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine; FWO post-doctoral fellow).
Helminths such as roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms infect millions of children in tropical countries, resulting in malnutrition, growth stunting, and cognitive deficits. To fight against these worms, large-scale deworming programs are implemented in which anthelminthic drugs are administered to schoolchildren. These large-scale deworming programs, however, increase the risk of drug resistance. Since 2009, Dr. Levecke has, in close collaboration with the World Health Organization, been working towards innovative operational strategies that allow monitoring changes in drug efficacy due to emerging resistance. Dr. Levecke has developed a mathematical framework that guides program managers in designing surveys (e.g. required sample sizes and diagnostic strategy), and hence provides them with the flexibility to minimize both financial and technical resources, while assuring a reliable surveillance of drug efficacy. To bridge the gap between this framework and the end-users, he developed an online tool (https://paradesign.shinyapps.io/paradesign/) which, since April 2015, has been accessed by approximately 4,000 users around the world. Moreover, he evaluated novel diagnostic techniques and pooling of samples as an alternative strategy for rapidly assessing helminth infections. In addition, he coordinated a variety of clinical trials across Africa, Asia and Latin-America aimed at assessing the efficacy of anthelminthic drugs. His work formed the basis for revising the World Health Organization guidelines for monitoring drug efficacy.
The Merial Award is a professional prize for young, promising researchers in the field of veterinary or medical parasitology. The award consists of a certificate and pecuniary donation of € 3000. It is meant to encourage further professional ambitions in parasitology in the Benelux and to reward the scientific quality and the active spread of research.