King Center on Global Development
Department of Bioengineering
Melanie Hannebelle is a bioengineer inventing open-source instruments to study infectious diseases and find new strategies to improve global health. She is passionate about open-source scientific hardware, education and health equity.
Her past work includes deciphering the physics of growth and division of tuberculosis bacteria, using high resolution techniques such as atomic force microscopy and superresolution microscopy. She currently works on schistosomiasis, developing low-cost and user-friendly microscopes to decipher the parasite behavior, and initiating collaborations with Senegalese communities to find together new ways to prevent infections.
Melanie Hannebelle is also the president and founder of the Stanford Global Health Club, a group of Stanford students organizing monthly events about global health.
King Center Supported Research
2022 - 2023 Academic Year | Global Development Research Funding
Modifying of the Hydrodynamics of Water Access Points to Lower Schistosomiasis Infection Rates
Schistosomiasis is a water-born parasitic disease that affects 230 million people globally, mainly low- income population in sub-Saharan Africa (93% of cases), where prevalence rates higher than 50% are not uncommon. People affected by schistosomiasis suffer from the damages induced by the large number of eggs laid by the parasites, leading to abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood in the stools or urine, as well as, in advanced cases, liver fibrosis, portal hypertension, spleen enlargement, bladder cancer and fertility issues. The genital lesions induced by schistosomiasis also increase HIV susceptibility. In addition to a general decrease of the level of health, the socioeconomic burden of schistosomiasis is high, close to that of malaria: children affected have increased learning difficulties and adults reduced ability to work, thus reducing the likelihood of escaping poverty.
There is no approved vaccine against schistosomiasis. An efficient and low-cost drug, praziquantel, is available to cure schistosomiasis infections but it is now accepted that mass drug administration alone cannot eradicate schistosomiasis because re-infection rates are high as the population remains in contact with infected waters. It is therefore essential to find complementary strategies that lower the risk of schistosomiasis (re)infection.
Because schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical disease, there still are a lot of unknown about the tactics used by the parasite to detect, move towards and infect a new human being within a body of water. Using custom imaging systems, we uncover the microscopic behaviors of schistosomiasis larvae swimming in water and quantify how they interact with natural water flows. Armed with this new knowledge, we design, together with the local populations affected by the disease, new strategies to lower the risk of a parasite making its way to infect humans.