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Leuvensesteenweg 13
3080 Tervuren - Belgium
Tel. (+32) 02 769 52 11
Fax (+32) 02 769 52 42


Tine Huyse



Parasitism is one of most successful modes of life, measured by the number of times it has evolved and the number of existing parasite species. Practically every animal species is infected by one or more parasite species, thus there are at least as many parasitic as free-living species. Despite its enormous importance and huge potential, population genetic studies on helminth parasites are rare. Amongst the three major components of host-parasite interactions, the abiotic environment, host genetics and parasite genetics, the latter has received the least attention.

While phylogenetic and co-speciation studies are necessary to investigate the origin and evolution of pathogen species, population genetics studies inform us about the evolutionary potential of parasites and are needed to study the effect of disease management on the evolution of parasite populations. Ultimately, this will enable prediction of the factors that govern the evolution of parasite populations, which is crucial for parasite-control programs.

Study systems include fish-parasite systems such as Monogenean parasites from African catfish and cichlids in Lake Tanganyika and the Congo basin. The second system involves schistosome species that infect humans and use freshwater snails as intermediate host. They cause the poverty-related disease named Bilharzia, or schistosomiasis, which is prevalent in the tropics, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. This research is conducted in close collaboration with the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.