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dr. Debby van Riel

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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 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. Debby van Riel
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.
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, Germany Debby 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.

Key publications (total number of publication: 63; H-index: 29)

  • Siegers JY, van de Bildt MWG, Lin Z, Leijten LM, Lavrijssen RAM, Bestebroer T, Spronken MIJ, De Zeeuw CI, Gao Z, Schrauwen EJA, Kuiken T, van Riel D. Viral Factors Important for Efficient Replication of Influenza A Viruses in Cells of the Central Nervous System. J Virol. 2019 May 15;93(11).
  • Te Velthuis AJW, Long JC, Bauer DLV, Fan RLY, Yen HL, Sharps J, Siegers JY, Killip MJ, French H, Oliva-Martín MJ, Randall RE, de Wit E, van Riel D, Poon LLM, Fodor E. Mini viral RNAs act as innate immune agonists during influenza virus infection. Nat Microbiol. 2018 Nov;3(11):1234-1242
  • de Wit E, Siegers J, Cronin JM, Weatherman S, van den Brand J, Leijten LM, van Run P, Begeman L, van den Ham HJ, Andeweg AC, Bushmaker T, Scott DP, Saturday G, Munster VJ, Feldmann H, van Riel D. 1918 H1N1 influenza virus replicates and induces pro-inflammatory cytokine responses in extra-respiratory tissues of ferrets. J Infect Dis 2018;217(8):1237-1246.
  • Anfasa F, Siegers J, van der Kroeg M, Mumtaz N, Stalin Raj V, de Vrij F, Widagdo W, Gabriel G, Salinas S, Simonin Y, Reusken C, Kushner S, Koopmans M, Haagmans B, Martina B, van Riel D. Phenotypic Differences between Asian and African Lineage Zika Viruses in Human Neural Progenitor Cells. mSphere 2017; 26;2(4) e00292-17
  • Short K, Veeris R, Leijten LM, van den Brand JM, Jong VL, Stittelaar K, Osterhaus ADME, Anderweg A, van Riel D. Pro-inflammatory cytokine responses in extra-respiratory tissues during severe influenza. J Infect Dis 2017; 216(7):829-833
  • Siegers JY, van den Brand JM, Leijten LM, van de Bildt MM, van Run PR, van Amerongen G, Stittelaar KJ, Koopmans MP, Osterhaus AD, Kuiken T, van Riel D. Vaccination Is More Effective Than Prophylactic Oseltamivir in Preventing CNS Invasion by H5N1 Virus via the Olfactory Nerve. J Infect Dis. 2016; 214(4):516-24
  • van Riel D, Verdijk R, Kuiken T. The olfactory nerve: a shortcut for influenza and other viral diseases into the central nervous system. J pathol 2015; 235(2):277-287
  • van Riel D, Leijten LM, Verdijk RM, Geurtsvankessel C, van der Vries E, van Rossum AM, Osterhaus AD, Kuiken T. Evidence for Influenza Virus CNS Invasion Along the Olfactory Route in an Immunocompromised Infant. J Infect Dis. 2014 Mar 25
  • Linster M, van Boheemen S, de Graaf M, Schrauwen EJ, Lexmond P, Mänz B, Bestebroer TM, Baumann J, van Riel D, Rimmelzwaan GF, Osterhaus AD, Matrosovich M, Fouchier RA, Herfst S. Identification, characterization, and natural selection of mutations driving airborne transmission of A/H5N1 virus. Cell. 2014 157(2):329-39 
  • Schrauwen EJ, Herfst S, Leijten LM, van Run P, Bestebroer TM, Linster M, Bodewes R, Kreijtz JH, Rimmelzwaan GF, Osterhaus AD, Fouchier RA, Kuiken T, van Riel D. The multibasic cleavage site in H5N1 virus is critical for systemic spread along the olfactory and hematogenous routes in ferrets. J Virol. 2012; 86(7):3975-84
  • van Riel D, Munster VJ, de Wit E, Rimmelzwaan GF, Fouchier RA, Osterhaus AD, Kuiken T. H5N1 virus attachment to lower respiratory tract. Science 2006;21;312:399


Field of Expertise:  Comparative pathology and Pathogenesis


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