Visualising blood flagellates infections in transparent zebrafish

Sem H. Jacobs

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Trypanosomes of the Trypanosoma genus are blood flagellates, and important causative agents of diseases of humans, livestock and cold-blooded species. Numerous in vitro studies and infection studies in mice contributed enormously to the insights into the biology of trypanosomes, their interaction with and evasion of the host immune system, as well as into various aspects related to vaccine failure and (uncontrolled) inflammation. A tight regulation of the early innate immune response to trypanosome infections was shown to be critical to obtain a balance between parasite control and inflammation-associated pathology. Trypanosome morphology was observed to be essential for their motility, the adaptation to their host’s environment and pathogenesis. One of the best-studied non-mammalian trypanosomes is Trypanosoma carassii, which presents many morphological similarities to mammalian trypanosomes. T. carassii is regularly observed co-infecting fish with Trypanoplasma spp such as T. borreli. Currently, few or no in vitro studies have been performed to unravel the swimming behaviour and host-pathogen interaction of Trypanoplasma species. For both trypanosomes and trypanoplasma, in vivo studies to visualise the parasite motility and host immune response have not been reported so far.    
In this thesis we describe for the first time blood flagellate infections in vivo in the natural environment of a vertebrate host (zebrafish). We did this by studying the parasite motility in vitro and in vivo and the kinetics of innate immune responses in vivo. The T. carassii and T. borreli zebrafish infection models are promising complementary models to existing (mammalian) animal models, and can contribute to fundamental mechanistic insights into host-parasite interactions.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Wiegertjes, Geert, Promotor
  • Forlenza, Maria, Promotor
  • Lankheet, Martin, Co-promotor
Award date5 Jun 2020
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463953726
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2020


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