Project Concept

To date, trypanosomiasis remains a problem that impacts Sub-Saharan Africa through the direct infection of humans (causing human African trypanosomiasis - HAT) and livestock, the latter imposing a devastating socio-economic problem. Easy-to-use highly specific diagnostics, as well as non-toxic, specifically targeted anti-trypanosome drugs, are needed to eliminate trypanosomiasis and to monitor the constant risk of re-infection due to the presence of an uncontrollable parasite reservoir in the African wildlife population. Education and research capacity building on a local scale is crucial to support these interventions, in order to monitor and control the disease and prepare the affected population for possible re-emergence of the disease due to:

  • migration of infected game,
  • unintentional re-introduction of infected livestock,
  • unexpected movement of people that might involve chronically infected individuals.

NANOTRYP will take nanobody (Nb) tools whose efficacy has already been proven in the laboratory, to a real-world field situation, without neglecting the need for further basic research and transfer of knowledge.

Antibody-based nanobody technology has been developed at VIB over the last 10 years as a tool for fundamental trypanosome research. In 2006, the accumulated knowledge and technology culminated in the development of an experimental drug delivery method for trypanosomiasis (Baral et al. Nature Med. 2006 12(5):580-4). In addition, VIB also reported the use of nanobody tools for parasite detection in experimental trypanosomiasis in mice (Stijlemans et al. Biol Chem. 2004 279(2):1256-61). The advantage that nanobodies offer over conventional antibodies include:

  • their unique epitope recognition potential as they recognize conserved surface areas of trypanosomes that are not recognized by conventional antibodies,
  • their ease of production with recombinant expression as opposed to hybridoma production,
  • the ease of selecting nanobodies by affinity panning, following in vivo affinity maturation,
  • their improved stability when compared to conventional antibodies.

NANOTRYP will mainly aim mainly at evaluating the use of nanobodies in the diagnosis of both Human African Trypanosomiasis and livestock trypanosomiasis.

The NANOTRYP project will be a tool to involve research scientists from the African collaborating centres in the development of nanobody-technology. This will be fulfilled by:

  • providing the opportunity to collaborating African researchers to join the main European partner laboratories for pre-determined periods,
  • organizing a yearly Nb-technology workshop in the African partner countries,
  • conducting HAT and livestock trypanosomiasis awareness campaigns in all locations where the nanobody diagnostic and treatment technologies will be evaluated in the field.