WorldLeish (WL) conference,august 1st - 6th, 2022 in Cartagena, Colombia. 


Senne Heeren

Institute of Tropical Medicine            

Molecular Parasitology Unit


The WorldLeish (WL) conferences are the world conferences for research on mainly leishmaniasis, but also other kinetoplastid diseases (e.g., trypanosomiasis, chagas disease), covering a wide variety of disciplines and are held once every four years. After postponing it for two years due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, it finally could take place, this time in Cartagena, Colombia. The conference had an elaborate scientific program spread out over six days where about 640 novel works were presented divided over numerous symposia, oral communication sessions, poster sessions and plenary sessions.


I was selected to give an eight-minute oral presentation (Title: “An endosymbiotic virus uncovers the recent evolution of a protozoan parasite”) during a session on virus-parasite (eco-) epidemiology/molecular epidemiology. My talk covered the work I have done for my first PhD chapter and upcoming manuscript. Presenting for the first time on such an international conference was exciting but also a great. The only unfortunate part was that some of my key figures were distorted on the slides during the presentation (something others experienced as well). I managed to stay on track and talk the audience through what they were supposed to see, making the best out of it. There was not much time for questions or feedback after my presentation, but I believe I answered the few questions that I received clearly and with success. To my surprise, people came up to me after the session to congratulate me with the results I presented, to talk about the parasite-virus symbiosis and to exchange contact information.


WorldLeish7 was also a great opportunity to broaden my knowledge on leishmaniasis research from many different disciplines and to start building up my network within the Leishmania-community. As a young researcher for the first time on such a large international conference the networking part was not so easy. Fortunately, thanks to some supervisor-mediated introductions and my presentation it was possible to take my first steps in growing my network within the Leishmania-community. In addition, I enjoyed some great talks by for instance prof. Jeffrey Shaw on the specialist/generalist strategies of Neotropical leishmania species, or the story of the novel sub-genus Leishmania Mundinia presented by prof. Paul Bates.


Everything combined, my attendance at WL7 was a great experience on both personal and professional level. I experienced and learned many things on this six-day conference, and I am very grateful got the opportunity to present my own work. I certainly want to thank BSPP and Zoetis for awarding me one the 2021 Zoetis travel grants. I want to encourage all PhD students, especially those in their starting phase, to apply for this travel grant and take the opportunity to share your research on both BSPP meetings and upcoming international conferences. 

Laura Dirkx

University of Antwerp, LMPH


WorldLeish is said to be the most important global event on leishmaniasis, and for ‘leishmaniacs’ like me, it really was. Being there felt like the cherry on top of my PhD, or better yet; it felt like finally putting a significance star on a graph after repeating the experiment a thousand times.


As it is only held once every four years, and the COVID pandemic had it postponed for two years, the anticipation was high. WorldLeish is generally held in a country that is endemic for leishmaniasis, and this year it was organized in Cartagena, Colombia. Additionally, for the first time in WorldLeish history, other kinetoplastid diseases like trypanosomiasis were also included, a parasite on which we work at LMPH as well.

In an elaborate program of 6 days, many novel scientific works were presented, alternating with opportunities for networking. Thanks to my two PIs, profs. Guy Caljon and Louis Maes, I got introduced to some great researchers in the field and a collaboration was forged for an upcoming publication. WorldLeish greatly helped me in expanding my network and establishment as a leishmaniasis researcher. It was a great place to meet like-minded people in a scientific but also comfortable setting, where we could appreciate Colombian food and hospitality.


Besides attending I had the opportunity to present my recently published work on sanctuary sites in visceral leishmaniasis, titled: ‘Long-term hematopoietic stem cells as a parasite niche during treatment failure in visceral leishmaniasis’. The presentation went very well and I had some interesting questions afterwards.


I would like to express my profound gratitude to Zoetis and the BSPP board, to grant me one of the 2021 Zoetis travel grants. Attending an (inter)national conference is a great way to broaden your current knowledge and expand your network, and I would strongly encourage everyone to apply for a Zoetis grant to cover some of the expenses. Taken together, attending WorldLeish7 significantly benefited my career and future research activities.