Viral infections at the human-animal interface

Exploring epidemiological and molecular aspects of viral infections at the human-animal interface

Principal Investigator

Prof. Benoît Muylkens

UNamur, Department of veterinary medicine, Integrated Veterinary Research Unit (URVI)

Member of the Namur Research Pole in Infectiology (NaRePI)

Research portal UNamur  |  ORCID  |  ResearchGate  |  LinkedIn

Expertise and research interests

Prof. Benoît Muylkens is expert in the field of molecular virology. One of his research interests concerns the genetic regulation of viral and host cellular genes during infection with the oncogenic Marek's disease virus. In this context, Benoît Muylkens maintains close relationships with the team “Transcription et Lymphome Viro-Induit” of the Université de Tours (Prof. Denis Rasschaert) and the lab of Prof. Benedikt Kaufer (Freie Universität von Berlin, Germany).

Other research topics include the epidemiology and control of emerging viral diseases of livestock (Schmallenberg virus), the prevalence of foodborne zoonotic bacteria (Brucella) in imported products, the mechanisms of viral diversification through mutation and reassortment in ruminant Bunyaviruses, as well as antimicrobial drug resistance at the human-animal interface.

In 2020, Benoît Muylkens offered his expertise in molecular virology at the service of the fight against coronavirus. To overcome the use of reagents that were in short supply worldwide, his team developed an alternative method to diagnose Covid-19, relying on a manual extraction protocol of viral RNA followed by RT-qPCR analysis. Beyond their temporary support to accelerate Covid-19 testing in Belgium from April till June 2020, they stay actively engaged in several research projects around SARS-CoV-2 infection and dissemination.

Group members

Postdoctoral researcher: Dr. Damien Coupeau

PhD students: Alexis Chasseur, Astrid Petit and Laura Rubiano Bonil

Research projects

  • ONGOING Contribution of non-coding RNAs to lymphoma development in Marek's disease? Ongoing PhD thesis by Alexis Chasseur. Under co-supervision by Prof. Benoît Muylkens, UNamur, NARILIS (promoter) and Dr. Damien Coupeau, UNamur, NARILIS (co-promoter).
  • ONGOING Study of the RNA/protein interactome implicated in transcription and translation mechanisms in Schmallenberg virus. Ongoing PhD thesis by Laura Rubiano Bonil. Under the supervision of Prof. Benoît Muylkens, UNamur, NARILIS.
  • ONGOING Restoration of chicken miRNAs expression during Gallid herpesvirus type 2 induced lymphomagenesis to demonstrate anti-tumoral potential of host miRNAs. Ongoing PhD thesis by Astrid Petit. Under the supervision of Prof. Benoît Muylkens, UNamur, NARILIS.
  • In vitro evaluation of the reassortment and recombination potential among Sathuperi and Shamonda Simbuviruses, spreading simultaneously in animal populations of the Sub-Saharan region. Postdoctoral research by Dr. Damien Coupeau. Under the supervision of Prof. Benoît Muylkens, UNamur, NARILIS.
  • Prevalence and resistance mechanisms of colistin-resistant E. coli (COLREC) at the human-livestock interface in an One Health approach. Postdoctoral research by Dr. Wiebke Jansen. Under the supervision of Prof. Benoît Muylkens, UNamur, NARILIS. In collaboration with CHU UCL Namur, National Reference Center of Antibiotic Resistant Gram Negative Bacilli (Prof. Youri Glupczynski, Prof. Te-Din Daniel Huang, Dr. Pierre Bogaerts) and UNamur Geography department (Prof. Catherine Linard).
  • ONGOING Understanding variability in innate immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and heterogeneity in disease severity. In collaboration with CHU UCL Namur (Prof. Olivier Denis, Dr. Pierre Bogaerts and Prof. Daniel Te-Din Huang).
  • ONGOING Work on three Covid-19 research topics: SARS-CoV-2 rapid antigenic testing - In vitro viral infectivity assays with SARS-CoV-2 positive samples - Symptomatology, viral charge and serology outcome in residential care and nursing institutions.
  • Use of SANA detection method on clinical and environmental samples:
    • SARS-CoV2 screening in the effluent of peritoneal dialysis patients. In collaboration with Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc (Dr. Eric Goffin).
    • SARS-CoV2 screening in waster water. In collaboration with the spin-off e-biom (Dr. Jonathan Marescaux).
    • Study on the potential of coated glass to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2. In collaboration with AGC Glass Europe and Public Hospitals of Paris.
    • Study of the role of fine particulate matter of air pollution in the spread of the virus. In collaboration with UNamur, NISM (Prof. Bao-Lian Su).
  • Development of 3D-printed sampling devices for the purpose of diagnosis. Collaborative research involving UNamur, NISM (Prof. Stéphane Lucas), UNamur, NARILIS (Prof. Benoît Muylkens) and CHU UCL Namur (Prof. Thierry Vander Borght and Dr. Philippe Eloy).

Selected publications

Pejaković S, Mbouombouo Mfossa AC, Wiggers L, Kheimar A, Coupeau D, Kaufer BB, Muylkens B. Role of DNA methylation and CpG sites in the viral telomerase RNA promoter during Gallid herpesvirus 2 pathogenesis. J Virol. 2020 Nov 9;94(23):e01488-20.

Coupeau D, Burton N, Lejeune N, Loret S, Petit A, Pejakovic S, Poulain F, Bonil L, Trozzi G, Wiggers L, Willemart K, André E, Laenen L, Cuypers L, Van Ranst M, Bogaerts P, Muylkens B, Gillet NA. SARS-CoV-2 Detection for Diagnosis Purposes in the Setting of a Molecular Biology Research Lab. Methods Protoc. 2020 Aug 18;3(3):E59.

Coupeau D, Bayrou C, Baillieux P, Marichal A, Lenaerts AC, Caty C, Wiggers L, Kirschvink N, Desmecht D, Muylkens B. Host-dependence of in vitro reassortment dynamics among the Sathuperi and Shamonda Simbuviruses. Emerg Microbes Infect. 2019;8(1):381-395.

Jansen W, Müller A, Grabowski N, Kehrenberg C, Muylkens B, Al Dahouk S. Foodborne diseases do not respect borders: Zoonotic pathogens and antimicrobial resistant bacteria in food products of animal origin illegally imported into the European Union. Vet J. 2019 Feb;244:75-82.

Gennart I, Coupeau D, Pejaković S, Laurent S, Rasschaert D, Muylkens B. Marek's disease: Genetic regulation of gallid herpesvirus 2 infection and latency. Vet J. 2015 Sep;205(3):339-48.