Elías Kabbas Piñango
I am a first year PhD student at the University of Glasgow focused on schistosomiasis diagnostic methods. The aim of my research will be to develop a device capable of detecting a specific schistosome-related antigen, the circulating anodic antigen (CAA) with high sensitivity. This will provide an improvement to the current diagnostic methods, such as Kato-Katz and urine filtration, which often lack sensitivity; and antibody detection methods, which can lead to false positives as they can only detect exposure to the pathogen and immune recognition. Therefore, antibody detection methods are unable to distinguish between past infections and active ones. This CAA test will be available for use with all species, unlike the circulating cathodic antigen (CCA) test which is only recommended for Schistosoma mansoni. After developing it, we will compare it to the rest of the techniques, including DNA methods. The point-of-care device we aim to develop will need to be affordable and easy to read for any potential patient or healthcare officer with varying levels of training. A device like this would help detect early and low intensity infections, and it could also be used in areas where Mass Drug Administration programs are carried out to monitor their efficacy. For this purpose, I will be jointly working with the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) and the French company NG Biotech.
My background is a BSc in Biotechnology from the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), where I was later hired as a research assistant and did some research on volatile organic compounds released from tomato plants upon bacterial infections. After some time, I obtained a MSc in Tropical Diseases from the Universidad de Salamanca (USAL). During my Master thesis I tested the effectiveness of some transcriptome-derived peptide molecules as potential vaccine candidates against S. mansoni infection on a mice model.
I am very interested in Neglected Tropical Diseases and all the factors causing, maintaining and spreading them. Including the non-biological factors for why these diseases are still neglected. This is the main reason why I find this PhD and the multidisciplinary group I have joined, an inspiring and challenging experience.
Apart from diagnostic methods and devices, I also enjoy running, hiking, playing and coaching futsal or planning some adventure sports I hardly ever practice!