Joanne Wildenbeest is a paediatric infectious diseases specialist at the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, University Medical Center Utrecht.
Tell us about your professional career.
I am a paediatric infectious diseases specialist and researcher at the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, University Medical Center Utrecht. I studied medicine at Ghent University in Belgium. After graduating I started my training in Paediatrics at the Academic Medical Center Amsterdam and specialized in Paediatric Infectious Diseases while obtaining my PhD, which was about viral infections in neonates and infants. Meanwhile I developed a special interest in vaccinology and worked as specialist advisor for vaccinations in children at the Centre for Infectious Disease Control, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, in the Netherlands. In 2016 I started to work at the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, combining my work as clinician with the RESCEU project.
Can you please explain a bit about your role at UMCU as part of the RESCEU project?
Together with Louis Bont I am leading the clinical cohort studies of Work-Package (WP) 4. The primary objective of the cohort studies is to determine the burden of RSV disease in healthy infants (the birth cohort study), community dwelling older adults (the older adults cohort study) and COPD patients (COPD cohort study). I have been involved in the development of the study protocols, including the questionnaires and the sample collection plan for which we have worked closely together with WP 3 and WP 5. The clinical studies started in 2017. During the conduct of the studies regular teleconferences were held with the participating centers of each study to discuss recruitment and study progress and any issues that might arise. The older adults study has been finished and results will be published in the coming months. The birth cohort study and the COPD study are still ongoing. I am also the local principal investigator of the infant case-control study. I co-supervise 3 PhD students who are working on the RESCEU project.
How do you foresee the future of RSV infection after RESCEU project?
I expect that in the coming years an effective vaccine or treatment against RSV will become available. With the results of the RESCEU study we will be able to provide key information about the burden of RSV disease in healthy infants, older adults and COPD patients in Europe. This information will be important for regulators, governments and other stakeholders responsible for policy decisions regarding the implementation of new vaccines and therapeutics. RESCEU will also provide information about health care utilization and costs and societal impact. Results from the biomarker studies might aid the understanding of the mechanism for severe disease and long-term sequelae. I also hope that in the near future RSV related mortality and morbidity will be substantially diminished because of effective vaccination strategies, not only in developed countries, but also in developing countries.