Benny Borremans

Postdoctoral Researcher
UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
PhD, Biology, University of Antwerp
M.S., Biology, University of Antwerp
B.S., Biology, University of Antwerp
4000 Terasaki Life Sciences Building
(310) 206-8203

My research focuses on the role of host ecology as a driver of disease transmission. The spread of infectious diseases between and within populations is driven by a fascinating interplay of natural processes that act at different scales, from individuals to (meta-) populations to species. This encompasses a complex combination of processes, including host behavior, movement, contact rates, reproduction, immune status, health, and survival. At the population level these processes will combine to affect population abundance and density, turn-over rate, demography, herd immunity, spatial transmission. Studying these processes often calls for an interdisciplinary approach, which is why I use a mix of fieldwork, laboratory experiments, statistics and mathematical modeling.

During my PhD (supervised by Herwig Leirs and Jonas Reijniers - UAntwerp) I studied the transmission ecology of a rodent-borne African arenavirus, for which I did live trapping, field and laboratory experiments, and mathematical modeling to understand the spread of a disease in its natural environment. One of the most exciting findings was that contacts between rodents increase with population density in a nonlinear, sigmoidal manner, which is likely to have important consequences for the invasion and persistence of the virus.

My current research as postdoc in the Lloyd-Smith Lab investigates the transmission of Leptospira bacteria in California sea lions and island foxes. Our goal is to identify the underlying processes driving Leptospira transmission in the sea lion and fox populations across time and space, and we will do this by applying existing and novel analytical, statistical and mathematical modeling approaches. While I will largely be based at the Lloyd-Smith Lab, I will also work with Prof. Niel Hens (SIMID - UHasselt & VAXINFECTIO - UAntwerp, Belgium), an expert on the statistical analysis of serological data.

I am supported by a grant from the US Dept. of Defense (PI Lloyd-Smith) and a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (EU-Horizon2020).


- Evolutionary Ecology Group - UAntwerp
- Simulation Models of Infectious Diseases (SIMID) - UHasselt
- Researchgate profile
- Twitter - @bennyborremans

Snedden CE, Makanani SK, Schwartz ST, Gamble A, Blakey RV, Borremans B, Helman SK, Espericueta L, Valencia A, Endo A, Alfaro ME, Lloyd-Smith JO (2021). SARS-CoV-2: cross-scale insights from ecology and evolution. Trends in Microbiology.

Whitmer ER, Borremans B, Duignan PJ, Johnson SP, Lloyd-Smith JO, McClain AM, Field CL, Prager KC. 2021. Classification and regression tree (CART) analysis for predicting prognosis in wildlife rehabilitation: a case study of leptospirosis in California sea lions (Zalophus californianus). Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine

Reijniers J, Tersago K, Borremans B, Hartemink N, Voutilainen L, Henttonen H, Leirs H. 2020. Why Hantavirus prevalence does not always increase with host density: modelling the role of host spatial behaviour and maternal antibodies. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology doi:10.3389/fcimb.2020.536660.

Borremans B, Gamble A, Prager KC, Helman, SK, McClain AM, Cox C, Savage V, Lloyd-Smith JO. 2020. Quantifying antibody kinetics and RNA shedding during early-phase SARS-CoV-2 infection. eLife doi:10.7554/eLife.60122.

Mariën J, Borremans B, Verhaeren C, Kirkpatrick L, Gryseels S, Goüy de Bellocq J, Günther S, Sabuni CA, Massawe AW, Reijniers J, Leirs H. 2020. Density-dependence and persistence of Morogoro arenavirus transmission in a fluctuating population of its reservoir host. Journal of Animal Ecology doi:10.1111/1365-2656.13107.

Borremans B, Faust C, Manlove KR, Sokolow SS, Lloyd-Smith JO. 2019. Cross-species pathogen spillover across ecosystem boundaries: mechanisms and theory.  Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B doi:10.1098/rstb.2018.0344.

Manlove KR, Sampson LM, Borremans B, Cassirer FE, Miller RS, Pepin KM, Besser TE, Cross PC. 2019. Epidemic growth rates and host movement patterns shape management performance for pathogen spillover at the wildlife-livestock interface.  Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B doi:10.1098/rstb.2018.0343.

Mariën J, Borremans B, Kourouma F, Jatta B, Rieger T, Günther S, Magassouba N, Leirs H, Fichet-Calvet E. 2019. Evaluation of rodent control to fight Lassa fever based on field data and mathematical modelling.  Emerging Microbes & Infections doi:10.1080/22221751.2019.1605846.

Nimo-Paintsil SC, Fichet-Calvet E, Borremans B, Letizia AG, Mohareb E, Bonney JHK, Obiri-Danso K, Ampofo WK, Schoepp RJ, Kronmann KC. 2019. Rodent-borne infections in rural Ghanaian farming communities.  PLoS ONE doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215224.

Costantini D, Borremans B. 2018. The linear no-threshold model is less realistic than threshold or hormesis-based models: An evolutionary perspective.  Chemico-Biological Interactions doi:10.1016/j.cbi.2018.10.007.

Iserbyt A, Griffioen M, Borremans B, Eens M, Müller W. 2018. How to quantify animal activity from radio-frequency identification (RFID) recordings.  Ecology and Evolution doi:10.1002/ece3.4491.

Mariën J, Sluydts V, Borremans B, Gryseels S, Vanden Broecke B, Sabuni C, Katakweba, A, Mulungu, L, Günther S, Goüy de Bellocq J, Massawe A, Leirs H. 2018. Arenavirus infection correlates with lower survival of its natural rodent host.  Parasites & Vectors 11:90.

Borremans B, Reijniers J, Hens N, Leirs H. 2017. The shape of the contact-density function matters when modelling disease transmission in fluctuating populations.  Royal Society Open Science 4(11):171308.

Vanden Broecke B, Borremans B, Mariën J, Makundi R, Massawe A, Leirs H, Hughes N. 2017. Does exploratory behavior or activity in a wild mouse explain susceptibility to virus infection?  Current Zoology doi:10.1093/cz/zox053.

Mariën J, Borremans B, Gryseels S, Vanden Broecke B, Becker-Ziaja B, Makundi R, Massawe A, Reijniers J, Leirs H. 2017. Comparative study of arenavirus infection patterns in experimentally and naturally infected rodent hosts.  EcoHealth doi:10.1007/s10393-017-1256-7.

Cuypers L, Cuypers W, Abraham L, Aertbeliën S, Blomme A, Massawe A, Borremans B, Gryseels S, Leirs H. 2017. No evidence for avoidance of black rat scent by the presumably less competitive Natal multimammate mouse in a choice experiment.  African Zoology 52:119-123.

Mariën J, Borremans B, Gryseels S, Soropogui B, De Bruyn L, Njala Nongo G, Becker-Ziaja B, Goüy de Bellocq J, Günther S, Magassouba N, Leirs H, Fichet-Calvet E. 2017. No measurable adverse effects of Lassa, Morogoro and Gairo arenaviruses on their rodent reservoir host in natural conditions. Parasites & Vectors 10:210.

Gryseels S, Baird S, Makundi R, Borremans B, Bryjová A, Leirs H, Goüy de Bellocq J. 2017. When viruses don’t go viral: the importance of intraspecific phylogeography in the spatial spread of arenaviruses.  PLoS Pathogens 13(1): e1006073.

Borremans B, Reijniers J, Hughes N, Gryseels S, Makundi R, Leirs H. 2016. Nonlinear scaling of foraging contacts with rodent population density.  Oikos 126:792-800.

Kerber R, Krumkamp R, ..., Borremans B, ..., Gunther S, Di Caro A (85 authors). 2016. Analysis of diagnostic findings from the European Mobile Laboratory in Gueckedou, Guinea, March 2014 to February 2015. Journal of Infectious Diseases 214(S3):S250-257.

Borremans B, Hens N, Beutels P, Leirs H, Reijniers J. 2016. Estimating time of infection using prior serological and individual information can greatly improve incidence estimation of human and wildlife infections. PLoS Computational Biology 12:e1004882.

Caluwaerts S, Fautsch T, Lagrou D, Camara M, Moreau M, Van Herp M, Borremans B, Richter M, Logue C, Gunther S, Burkhardt G, Erland E, Lledo P, Lionetto F, de la Rosa O, Hassna M. 2016. Dilemmas in managing pregnant women with Ebola: 2 case reports. Clinical Infectious Diseases 62:903-905.

Mulungu LS, Borremans B, Ngowo V, Mdangi ME, Katakweba AS, Tesha P, Mrosso FP, Mchomvu M, Kilonzo BS. 2015. Comparative study of movement patterns of Mastomys natalensis in irrigated rice and fallow fields in eastern Tanzania. African Journal of Ecology 53:473-479.

Carroll MW, Matthews DA, ..., Borremans B, ..., Formenty P, Günther S (133 authors). 2015. Temporal and spatial analysis of the 2014-2015 Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. Nature 524:97-101.

Borremans B, Vossen R, Becker-Ziaja B, Gryseels S, Hughes N, Van Houtte N, Günther S, Leirs H. 2015. Shedding dynamics of Morogoro virus, an Old World Arenavirus closely related to Lassa virus, in its natural reservoir host Mastomys natalensis. Scientific Reports 5:10445.

Makundi RH, Massawe AW, Borremans B, Laudisoit A, Katakweba A. 2015. We are connected: flea-host association networks in the plague outbreak focus in the Rift Valley, northern Tanzania. Wildlife Research 42:196-206.

Borremans B, Sluydts V, Makundi R, Leirs H. 2015. Evaluation of short-, mid and long-term effects of toe clipping on a wild rodent. Wildlife Research 42:143-148.

Katakweba AAS, Mhamphi GG, Mwalimu DC, Mchau G, Mbise TJ, Lugendo RM, Borremans B, Kilonzo BS. 2015. Laboratory and field tests of Carbaryl 5% against fleas in Lushoto district, Tanzania. Tanzanian Journal of Health Research 17:10.4314/thrb.v17i2XX.

Gryseels S, Rieger T, Oestereich L, Cuypers B, Borremans B, Makundi R, Leirs H, Gunther S, Gouy de Bellocq J. 2015. Gairo virus, a novel arenavirus of the widespread Mastomys natalensis: Genetically divergent, but ecologically similar to Lassa and Morogoro viruses. Virology 476:249-256.

Moreau M, Spencer, C, Gozalbes JG, Colebunders R, Lefevre A, Gryseels S, Borremans B, Gunther S, Becker D, Bore JA, Koundouno FR, Di Caro A, Wolfel R, Van Herp M, Peetermans L, Camara AM. 2015. Lactating mothers infected with Ebola virus: EBOV RT-PCR of blood only may be insufficient. Eurosurveillance 20:pii=21017.

Veyrunes F, Perez J, Borremans B, Gryseels S, Richards LR, Duran A, Chevret P, Robinson TJ, Britton-Davidian J. 2014. A new cytotype of the African pygmy mouse Mus minutoides in Eastern Africa. Implications for the evolution of sex-autosome translocations. Chromosome Research 22:533-543.

Borremans B. 2014. Ammonium improves elution of fixed dried blood spots without affecting immunofluorescence assay quality. Tropical Medicine and International Health 22:533-543.

Borremans B, Hughes N, Reijniers J, Sluydts V, Katakweba AAS, Mulungu L, Sabuni C, Makundi R, Leirs H. 2014. Happily together forever: temporal variation in spatial patterns and complete lack of territoriality in a promiscuous rodent. Population Ecology 56: 109-118.

Goyens J, Reijniers J, Borremans B, Leirs H. 2013. Density thresholds for Mopeia virus invasion and persistence in its host Mastomys natalensis. Journal of Theoretical Biology 317:55-61.

Katakweba A, Mulungu L, Eiseb S, Mahlaba T, Makundi R, Massawe A, Borremans B, Belmain S. 2012. Prevalence of haemoparasites, leptospires and coccobacilli with potential for human infection in the blood of rodents and shrews from selected localities in Tanzania, Namibia and Swaziland. African Zoology 47(1): 119-127.

Borremans B, Leirs H, Günther S, Gryseels S, Makundi R, Goüy de Bellocq J. 2011. Presence of Mopeia Virus, an African Arenavirus, related to individual host characteristics and biotope; implications for transmission. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 11(8):1125-1131.

Goüy de Bellocq J, Borremans B, Katakweba A, Makundi R, Baird S, Becker-Ziaja B, Günther S, Leirs H. 2010. Sympatric occurrence of three arenaviruses in Morogoro, Tanzania. Emerging Infectious Diseases 16:692-695.

Geelhand de Merxem D, Borremans B, de Jäger ML, Johnson T, Jooste M, Ros P, Zenni RD, Ellis AG, Anderson B. 2010. Sympatric occurrence of three arenaviruses in Morogoro, Tanzania. South African Journal of Botany 75:660-667.