Abhijeet has been associated with Lyme borreliosis (LB) research and development since 2013 when he started his industrial PhD in LB vaccine development at Valneva Austria GmbH and University of Vienna. During his PhD, he has successfully tested a proof-of-concept of a novel and broadly protective outer surface protein A (OspA) vaccine candidate for protection against Lyme borreliosis, that has been the basis of a patent application. He has been trained as a next generation vaccinologist under the EU wide Marie Curie Initial Training Network, VacTrain (www.vactrain.eu).
After completing his PhD studies, Abhijeet joined the group of Prof. Joppe Hovius at AMLC in 2018 and has since focused on research and development of a novel diagnostic test for Lyme borreliosis by implementing a protein microarray approach. In addition, he is involved in investigation and characterization of novel feeding-induced salivary gland proteins (from Ixodes ricinus ticks) as vaccine candidates for protection against Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
More details on research
LB is the most common vector-borne illness in the temperate regions of Northern Hemisphere. LB is caused by a group of spirochetes belonging to Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato variants. Humans contract the infection when bitten by an Ixodes tick infected with Borrelia and present an array of clinical manifestations starting from early skin infection (erythema migrans) as well as disseminated infection in form of Lyme arthritis (most commonly caused by B. burgdorferi in the U.S.), Lyme neuroborreliosis (most commonly caused by B. garinii in Europe), rarely Lyme carditis and late chronic infection of the skin (acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans; most commonly caused by B. afzelii in Europe). Although, direct detection of spirochetes by culturing infected samples remains the gold standard, it is not used as routine test for laboratory diagnosis due to low sensitivity and preparation of specialized media as well as expertise. Indirect detection of serum antibodies from infected patients is customarily, used for diagnosis of Borrelia in the laboratory. However, currently approved diagnostic test suffers from two major pitfalls: i) its low sensitivity to diagnose early disease; ii) and its inability to distinguish ongoing versus a past infection.
With our protein microarray approach, we aim to screen whole proteome of B. afzelii (most prevalent variant of Borrelia in Europe; responsible for 80% of human infections) to identify antigens at different disease stages by screening serum samples from humans and experimentally infected murine sera. The combination of multiple novel antigens identified, at different disease stages, would enable to establish a robust diagnostic assay that is highly sensitive in early disease stage and at the same time has the potential to discriminate an active infection from a past infection. This kind of assay will greatly facilitate in appropriate methods for treatment of LB in Europe.