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Principal Investigator

Dr. D. A. J. (Debby) van Riel

Associate Professor

Associate Professor

  • Department
  • Viroscience
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Debby van Riel - Associate professor Department of Viroscience.
After her PhD Debby started her own research line in which she focuses on extra-respiratory tract complications of respiratory virus infections, with a specific focus on CNS disease. In recent years she has shown that influenza viruses can enter the CNS via the olfactory nerve and trigeminal nerve in the ferret model, but also in a human case (Schrauwen 2011, van Riel 2014, van Riel 2015, Siegers 2016, de Wit 2018).

Ongoing research
Ongoing research focuses on viral factors that facilitate influenza virus entry and spread throughout the nervous system (Siegers 2019), as well as host factors (risk groups for severe influenza). Besides influenza, Debby is also interested how other viruses, such as Zika virus (Anfasa 2017. Simonin 2017) and enterovirus D68, are able to enter and cause disease of the central nervous system.

Recent studies
In recent studies, Debby has shown that severe influenza virus infections results in systemic pro-inflammatory responses, with involvement many extra-respiratory tissues such as the CNS, heart, liver etc(Short 2017, de Wit 2018). This response most likely contributes to pathogenesis of severe influenza, and ongoing research focusses on differences in responses between influenza virus strains, as well as the mechanism behind this systemic response.

Field(s) of expertise

Comparative pathology and Pathogenesis


Click here to view the publications of Debby van Riel

Scholarships, grants, and awards

Debby has received several grants and fellowships that support her research group, including a Veni, Erasmus MC fellowship, Vidi and Aspasia (total > 1.4 million Euro). In addition, Debby received the Beijerinck premium in 2015 (2 yearly award for promising early career scientists within virology research in the Netherlands), the ESWI Award in 2017 (3-yearly international awards for the most promising body of work in influenza virus research from European Scientific Working group on Influenza) and she is a member of the Young Erasmus Academy.

International collaborators

  • Prof. Dr. Gülsah Gabriel, Heinrich-Pette Institute (HPI) Hamburg, GermanyDebby is employed as a guest scientist at the HPI. This collaboration is based on the joint interest in the pathogenesis of influenza virus infections. This collaboration resulted in several joint publications (Anfasa 2017; Betram 2017; van Riel 2016; Otte 2016 and Siegers 2014)
  • Dr. Kirsty Short, Queensland University, Australia. The collaboration with Kirsty Short is based on our joint interest in extra-respiratory immune responses during influenza virus
    infections. This collaboration recently resulted in a joint publication in J Infect Dis (short 2017).
  • Dr. Emmie de Wit, RML NIH, Montana US. The Collaboration with Dr de With is based on on our joint interest in the pathogenesis of 1918 H1N1 Influenza virus (Spanish flu)
    with a specific focus on extra-respiratory tract complications.

My Groups