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Picture of Rik de Swart
Principal Investigator

Dr. R. L. (Rik) de Swart

Associate Professor

Associate Professor

  • Department
  • Viroscience



Rik de Swart graduated as biologist from the University of Utrecht in 1990. He obtained his PhD in the field of immunotoxicology of marine mammals in 1995. Subsequently, he became employed as postdoc at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Since 2001 he is a workgroup leader at the Erasmus MC department of Viroscience. He became an Associate Professor in 2019 and obtained ius promovendi in 2022.

In 2021 Rik de Swart started in a new position as virologist at Wageningen Bioveterinary Research in Lelystad (0.8 FTE), while also remaining affiliated with the department Viroscience of Erasmus MC (0.2 FTE).

In Lelystad Rik primarily investigates respiratory virus infections of livestock animals, and combines stem cell-based models of airway epithelial cells and animal models of disease as a One Health approach to understanding viral pathogenesis, developing intervention strategies and support pandemic preparedness.

Field(s) of expertise

Field(s) of expertise

The theme of my research is to understand the immunopathogenesis of paramyxoviruses, especially morbilliviruses (including measles virus and canine distemper virus) and pneumoviruses (including respiratory syncytial virus and human metapneumovirus). My studies focus on interactions between these viruses and the host immune system, with as ultimate aim to identify correlates of disease or protection and to develop novel intervention strategies.


Over the last decade, the implementation of recombinant viruses expressing fluorescent reporter proteins has vastly improved the sensitivity of our in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo model systems, as these viruses facilitate detection of virus-infected cells. These studies have resulted in the identification of the predominant target cells of measles virus infection during the early, intermediate and late stages of infection in non-human primates. In addition, the immune amnesia model was developed to explain the mechanism of measles immune suppression. Recently, further support for this model was obtained in human case-based epidemiological and clinical outbreak studies, resulting in three high impact publications in Nature Communications (2018), Science Immunology (2019) and Science (2019).

In 2020 Rik became actively involved in studies into the immunopathogenesis of COVID-19, including characterization of cellular immune responses in severe ARDS patients and evaluation of novel antiviral therapy in animal models. In addition, his group demonstrated the efficacy of fusion-inhibitory peptides against SARS-CoV-2 in a direct contact virus transmission model in ferrets (De Vries et al, Science 2021).


Selected publications

Teaching activities

Rik de Swart has supervised a large number of undergraduate and graduate students. Between 2014 and 2022 he was one of the core teachers of the Research Master's program "Infection and Immunity" of the Erasmus MC Postgraduate School Molecular Medicine.

Other positions

Rik de Swart is coordinator of the World Health Organization National Reference Laboratory for Measles and Rubella. In addition, Rik de Swart is member of the editorial board of Vaccine (Council of 100), Virus Research and Virology.

My Groups