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Associate Professor William (Bill) Horsnell BSc(Hons) PhD (London)

Parasite Immune Regulation Laboratory

Bill HorsnellDivision of Immunology, Department of Pathology, Full Member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM), Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town. 

Key areas of expertise: Type 2 immunity, maternal immunity, co-infection immunity


Horsnell's team mainly studies host immunity to helminths, these infections are very common and exert a strong influence on our immune system, causing both transient and long lasting immune changes. These changes to our immune system can have important consequences to how we can control both the helminth and unrelated diseases.

They study how host adapted and zoonotic helminth infections cause pathology and change host susceptibility to a number of other diseases. These include viral infections (including HPV, HSV, muHV and RSV), bacterial infections (including salmonella, streptococcus, tuberculosis) and non-infectious diseases, especially allergy. They also study the effects of helminth infection on both parasite colonised anatomical sites (e.g. the intestine and lung) as well as systemic effects at body sites the parasite does not colonise. The team look's at how both current, past and maternal infections influence these responses. Their work consists of both basic animal models of disease as well as human studies. 

Selected publications:

Domínguez-Medina C, Pérez-Toledo M, Schager AE, Marshall JL, Cook CN, Bobat S, Hwang H, Chun BJ, Logan E, Bryant JA, Channell WM, Morris FC, Jossi S, Alshayea A,. Rossiter AE, Barrow PA, Horsnell WG, MacLennan CA, Henderson IR, Lakey J, Gumbart JC, López-Macías C, Bavro VN, Cunningham AF. Outer membrane protein size and LPS O-antigen combine to define protective antibody targeting to the Salmonella surface. Nature Communications. 2020. In Press

Ujma S, Carse S, Chetty A, Horsnell W, Clark H, Madsen J, Mackay RM, Watson A, Griffiths M, Katz A, Schäfer G *. Surfactant protein A impairs genital HPV16 pseudovirus infection by immune cell activation in a murine model. Pathogens. 2019. Dec 6. 8 (4). DOI: 10.3390/pathogens8040288

Benmerzoug S, Bounab B, Rose S, Gosset D, Biet F, Cochard T, Xavier A, Rouxel N, Fauconnier L, Horsnell WGC, Ryffel B, Togbe D, Quesniaux VFJ. Sterile Lung Inflammation Induced by Silica Exacerbates Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection via STING-Dependent Type 2 Immunity. Cell Reports. 2019. May 28;27(9):2649-2664.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.04.110.

Darby MG, Chetty A, Mrjden D, Rolot M, Smith K, Mackowiak C, Sedda D, Donald Nyangahu D, Jaspan H, Toellner K, Waisman A, Quesniaux V, Bernhard Ryffel6 B, Cunningham AF, Dewals BG, Frank Brombacher F#, Horsnell WGC#. Pre-conception maternal helminth infection transfers 1 via nursing long lasting 2 cellular immunity against helminths to offspring. Science Advances. 2019. May 29. Vol. 5, no. 5, eaav3058. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav3058

Ardain  A, Domingo-Gonzalez R, Das S,Kazer SW, Howard NC, Alveera Singh A, Ahmed M, Nhamoyebonde S, Rangel-Moreno J, Ogongo P, Lu L, Ramsuran D, de la Luz Garcia-Hernandez M, Ulland T, Darby M, Park E, Karim F, Melocchi L, Madansein R, Dullabh KJ, Dunlap M, Marin-Agudelo N, Ebihara T, Ndung’u T, Kaushal D, Pym AS, Kolls JK, Steyn A, Zúñiga J, Horsnell W, Yokoyama W, Shalek AK, Kløverpris HN, Colonna M, Leslie A#, Khader SA#. Group 3 innate lymphoid cells mediate early protective immunity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Nature. 2019. Jun 5. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1276-2.

O'Shea MK, Fletcher TE, Muller J, Tanner R, Matsumiya M, Bailey W, Jones J, Smith SG, Koh GH, Horsnell W, Beeching NJ, Dunbar J, Wilson D, Cunningham A, McShane H. Human hookworm infection enhances mycobacterial growth inhibition and associates with reduced risk of tuberculosis infection. Frontiers in Immunology. 2018. Dec 14;9:2893. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.02893.

Rolot M, Dougall AM, Chetty A, Javaux J, Chen T, Xiao X, Machiels B, Selkirk M, Hokke C, Denis O, Brombacher F, Vanderplasschen A, Gillet L, Horsnell WG, Dewals BG. Helminth-induced IL-4 expands virtual memory CD8+ T cells for early control of gammaherpesvirus infection. Nature Communications. 2018. 2018 Oct 30;9(1):4516

Dzhivhuho G, Humby SA, Ndlovu H, Horsnell WGC, Brombacher F, Williamson A-L, Chege GK. Chronic schistosomiasis suppresses HIV-specific responses to DNA-MVA and MVA-gp140 Env vaccine regimens despite antihelminthic treatment and increases helminth-associated pathology in a mouse model. PLoS Pathogens. 2018. Jul 26;14(7):e1007182.

Nyangahu DD, Lennard KS, Brown BP, Darby MG, Wendoh JM, Havyarimana E, Smith P, Butcher J, Stintzi A, Mulder N, Horsnell WGC#, Jaspan H#. Disruption of maternal gut microbiota during gestation alters offspring microbiota and immunity. Microbiome. 2018. Jul 7;6(1):124. 

Jacobs B-A, Chetty A, Horsnell WGC, Schäfer G, Prince S, Smith KA. Hookworm exposure decreases human papillomavirus uptake and cervical cancer migration through systemic regulation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition marker expression. Scientific Reports. 2018. In Press

Logan E, Luabeya AKK, Mulenga H, Mrdjen D, Ontong C, Cunningham A, Tameris M, McShane H, Scriba TJ, Horsnell WGC#, Hatherill M#. Elevated IgG Responses in Infants are Associated with Reduced Prevalence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection. Frontiers in Immunology. 2018. July; 9:1529

Schwartz IS, Lerm B, Hoving JC, Kenyon C, Horsnell WG, Basson J, Otieno-Odhiambo P, Govender NP, Colebunders R, Botha A. Emergomyces africanus in soil, South Africa. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2018 Feb;24(2):377-380.

Jogi O, Svanes C, Siiak S, Logan E, Holloway J, Igland J, Johannessen  A, Levin M, Real F, Schlünssen V, Horsnell WG#, Bertelsen RJ#. Zoonotic helminth exposure and risk of allergic diseases: a study of two generations in Norway. Clinical and Experimental Allergy. 2018 Jan;48(1):66-77

Contact details:

Room 3.20, Falmouth Building
Division of Immunology
Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine &
Division of Immunology, Department of Pathology
UCT Faculty of Health Sciences
Observatory 7925
South Africa

Tel:  +27 21 4066220
Cell: +27 82 9769753
Fax:  +27 21 4066029
Email:  wghorsnell@gmail.com

Alternate sitewww.health.uct.ac.za/fhs/departments/pathology


Group Members:

Post-doctoral fellows:

Matthew Darby

Alisha Chetty

PhD and masters students:

Claire Butters

Malika Gabier

Tatenda Murangi

Milicent Omondi

Jamie Pillaye (University of Birmingham) Jonathon Pollock


Our group collaborates widely with felllow UCT researchers and with other institutions.

Key external collaborations at present include:

Profs A Cunningham, T Mitchell and K Toellner and Dr M O'Shea: University of Birmingham. UK Drs L Layland and M Ritter: University of Bonn. Germany Prof M Selkirk: Imperial College. UK Dr B Dewals: University of Liege. Belgium Dr Gnatoulma Katawa. University of Lome. Togo Dr M Oudhoff: University of Trondheim. Norway Profs V Quesniaux and B Ryffel: CNRS-Orleans, France Dr K Smith. University of Cardiff. UK Prof C Svanes and Dr R Bertelsen: University of Bergen. Norway.