After her PhD Debby started her own research line in which she focuses on extra-respiratory tract complication of influenza, with a specific focus on disease of the central nervous system. In recent years she has shown that influenza viruses can enter the CNS via the olfactory nerve in the ferret model, but also in a human case (Schrauwen 2011, van Riel 2014, van Riel 2015, Siegers 2016). Ongoing research is focusing on viral factors that facilitate influenza virus entry and spread throughout the nervous system, as well as host factors (risk groups for severe influenza). Besides influenza, Debby is also interested how other viruses, such as Zika virus (Anfasa 2017) and enterovirus D68, are able to enter and cause disease of the central nervous system.
In recent studies, Debby has shown that severe influenza virus infections are able to cause a systemic pro-inflammatory cytokines response (Short 2017, de Wit 2018). This response most likely contributes to severe influenza, and ongoing research focusses on differences in responses between influenza virus strains, as well as the mechanism behind this systemic response.
Debby has received several grants and fellowships that support her research group, including a Veni and Erasmus MC fellowship. In addition, Debby received the Beijerinck premium (2 yearly award for promising early career scientists within virology research in the Netherlands), the ESWI Award (3-yearly international awards for the most promising body of work in influenza virus research from European Scientific Working group on Influenza) and she is a member of the Young Erasmus Academy.