Sándor Belák

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Sándor Belák
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Born(19 January 1946)
Mosonmagyaróvár, Hungary
CitizenshipHungarian and Swedish
  • DVM (veterinary surgeon), University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, 1969
  • PhD, Hungarian Academy Sciences, Budapest, 1978
  • DSc, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 1995
Known for
  • Virology
  • Molecular diagnostics
  • Infection biology
Spouse(s)Katinka Belák, veterinary pathologist
ChildrenTwo children
Scientific career
  • University of Veterinary Sciences, Budapest
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome
  • National Veterinary Institute(SVA), Uppsala
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala

Sándor Belák, born 19 January 1946 is a Hungarian-Swedish veterinarian who made significant scientific research contributions in veterinary virology and epizootiology. Belák is professor (now emeritus) of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Veterinary Public Health of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala, Sweden, former Director of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Collaborating Centre for the Biotechnology-based Diagnosis of Infectious Diseases in Veterinary Medicine and affiliate professor at the University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest (UVM), Hungary. Belák was born in 1946 in Mosonmagyaróvár, Hungary. He qualified as veterinary surgeon at UVM in Budapest, in 1969.


Belák started research work at the Department of Microbiology and Epizootiology of UVM in 1969. In 1970-71, he worked at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome, Italy and at the Foot- and Mouth-Disease Vaccine Institute in Ankara, Turkey. In 1979, he was a visiting researcher at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, USA, studying herpes- and parvoviruses. Subsequently, Belák continued his research at UVM on respiratory and enteric diseases of cattle and sheep. A wide range of viruses were isolated and new disease forms were described, e.g., pneumoenteritis of lambs, caused by adenoviruses.[1][2] Novel vaccines were developed against adeno- and herpesviruses and the effects of vaccination were estimated.[3] Belák moved to Sweden in 1985 where his scientific career got a boost. In Uppsala, he soon became the head of the Joint Research and Development Division in Virology of the National Veterinary Institute (SVA) and of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU. Belák also became professor in virology at SLU. Belák’s international research group developed a range of novel methodologies of molecular diagnostic virology and studied the biology of viral infections. Novel molecular diagnostic methods were developed, e.g., simplified nucleic acid hybridization technologies[4] and various polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays in order to diagnose infectious diseases more effectively.[5][6][7][8] Using immune stimulating complex (ISCOM) technology, new vaccines were developed.[9] The next major subjects were rapid determination of genomic sequences, various pathotypes of pathogens,[10][11][12] extensive, DNA_sequencing high throughput full-length genome sequencing[13] and molecular epidemiology, with strong focus on the One Health principle.[14] Various approaches of viral metagenomics were applied and several new, or so far unknown viruses were detected.[15] The group also worked on basic research. Genomic stability, recombination phenomena, evolution aspects of a wide range of viruses were studied, such as adenoviruses, African swine fever virus,[16] influenza viruses, Newcastle Disease virus,[17] pesti- and coronaviruses,[18][19] among others. The results of the work within the OIE Collaborating Centre significantly contributed to improved diagnosis of infectious diseases and to the production of new vaccines.[20][21] The European Union (EU) has supported Belák’s work with approximately 30 research projects. In three large EU projects, Belák was entrusted to serve as the coordinator of the international research consortia. The EU has awarded the title of “Sixth Framework Program Success Story” to the LAB-ON-SITE (SSPE-CT-2004-513645) project, coordinated by Sándor Belák. Results are protected by several international or national patents, such as: PCT/SE2010/050923:Genetic detection and identification of Classical Swine Fever Virus vaccine strains and PCT/SE2020/051175:Rapid amplification and genotyping of nucleic acid sequences. '” Belák has authored or co-authored 12 book chapters, three university notes and about 310 peer-reviewed scientific papers, published in international journals. In 1995, Belák defended his Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) thesis at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and was elected as external member of this academy in 2007.


Belák was working as a teacher throughout his whole career - university education was his other main activity. Between 1969 and 1985, he gave the lectures and supported the laboratory practical education of virology at UVM in Budapest, and since 1985 at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science of SLU in Uppsala. As Belák continuously participated in the Hungarian university education in Budapest, he was awarded the title of affiliate professor at UVM in 2001. Belák supervised 24 PhD students from four continents: Africa, America, Asia, and Europe.

International assignments

Belák was the President of the European Society for Veterinary Virology between 2006 and 2012, member of the European Society for Clinical Virology, the American Society for Virology and the American Society for Microbiology. Belák serves as official expert of the European Commission (EC), the (IAEA) and of various national research councils and foundations (e.g., the French National Research Agency and the “La Caixa” Foundation). Belák is full member of the European Advisory Board for Cat Diseases (ABCD).


The high-level KSLA The Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Gold Medal Award for Outstanding work in veterinary medicine, including veterinary virology was handed over personally by Carl XIV Gustaf, King of Sweden, at a ceremonial meeting of the Academy in Stockholm (2012).[22]

Personal life

Belák’s father was an agronomist, professor and rector magnificus of the Keszthely University of Agricultural Sciences in Hungary and his mother was a homemaker. He has a younger brother, Gábor, who is a veterinary practitioner in Keszthely. His wife, Katinka, is a veterinary pathologist and they raised two sons, Márton Martin (born 1980) and Bence Kristian (born 1984).

Books, book chapters

  • Belák, S., Tuboly, S., Varga, J: Veterinary Microbiology: Bacteriology, Virology Immunology (Hung. Ed. by Szent-Iványi, T.). Press of Agriculture, Budapest, 1983.
  • Belák, S.: Ovine adenoviruses In Viral Infections of Ruminants, Ed Dinter Z. Morein B, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1990. DOI: https://DOI.org/10.1016/C2009-0-33100-1
  • Belák, S.: Diagnóstico molecular de enfermedades virales, pp 617-623 (in Microbiología Veterinaria, Ed by Nestor Oscar Stanchi), Temas de Microbiología, Argentina, 2005.
  • Belák, S.: The molecular diagnosis of viral diseases in veterinary medicine (Hung.). In: Medical Molecular Virology, Ed. By G. Berencsi,. Convention Budapest Press, 2006.
  • Belák, S.: Experiences of an OIE Collaborating Centre in Molecular Diagnosis of Transboundary Animal Diseases: a Review. 128. 109-118. In: First Int. Conf. of the OIE Ref. Labs and Coll. Centres. Ed: Lombard, M., Dodet, B. & the OIE Sci. and Techn. Department, Dev. Biol. Basel, Krager, Basel, 2007. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18084935/
  • Pestana, EA, Belák, S., Diallo, A., Crowther, JR, Viljoen. G, J.: Early, Rapid and Sensitive Veterinary Molecular Diagnostics - Real Time PCR Applications. Springer Dordrecht Press, Heidelberg, London, New York, 2010. https://DOI.org/10.1007/978-90-481-3132-7
  • Belák, S. and Liu, L: Recent Advances in Veterinary Diagnostic Virology: Report from a Collaborating Centre of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Adv. Techniques in Diagnostic Microbiology, 2nd ed. Eds: Tang, Yi-Wei and Stratton, Charles W, © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013. P. 661-679. https://DOI.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3970-7_2
  • Granberg, F., Karlsson, O., Leijon, M., Liu, L., Belák, S.: Molecular Approaches to Recognize Relevant and Emerging Infectious Diseases in Animals. Ch. 7., Methods in Molecular Biology, Mónica V. Cunha and João Inácio (eds.), vol. 1247, © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015. https://DOI.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-2004-4_33
  • Granberg, F., Karlsson, O., Belák, S.: Metagenomic Approaches to Disclose Disease-Associated Pathogens: Detection of Viral Pathogens in Honeybees. Ch. 33. Molecular Diagnostics and High-Throughput Strategies, Methods in Molecular Biology, Mónica V. Cunha and João Inácio (eds.), vol. 1247, © Springer Science+Business, New York 2015, https://DOI.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-2004-4_33
  • Van Borm, S., Belák, S., Freimanis, G., Fusaro, A., Granberg, F., Höper, D., King, D.P., Monne, I., Orton, R., and Rosseel, P.: Next-Generation Sequencing in Veterinary Medicine: How Can the Massive Amount of Information Arising from High- Throughput Technologies Improve Diagnosis, Control, and Management of Infectious Diseases? Chapter 30 in: Methods in Molecular Biology, Eds: Mónica V. Cunha and João Inácio (vol. 1247, © Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015, https://DOI.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-2004-4_30
  • Murcia PR, Palmarini M, Belák S.; Introduction: Potential applications of pathogen genomics. Rev Sci Tech. 2016 Apr;35(1):13-23. https://DOI.org/10.20506/rst.35.1.2414
  • Granberg F, Bálint Á, Belák S.: Novel technologies applied to the nucleotide sequencing and comparative sequence analysis of the genomes of infectious agents in veterinary medicine. Rev Sci Tech. 2016 Apr;35(1):15-42. https://DOI.org/10.20506/rst.35.1.2415


  1. Belák, S; Pálfi, V; Palya, V (1976). "Les maladies de l'appareil respiratoire et de l'appareil digestif des agneaux". Revue Med. Vet. (in français). 127: 1385–1396.
  2. Belák, S; Virtanen, A; Zabielski, J; Rusvai, M; Berencsi, Gy; Petterson, U (1986). "Subtypes of bovine adenovirus type 2 exhibit major differences in region E3". Virology. 153: 262–271.
  3. Pálfi, V; Belák, S; Papp, Z (1980). "Factors influencing the effectiveness of adenovirus vaccines in lambs". Zentralblatt für Veterinärmedizin B. 27: 345–351.
  4. Belák, S; Linné, T (1988). "Rapid detection of Aujeszky's disease (pseudorabies) virus infection of pigs by direct filter hybridization of nasal and tonsillar specimens". Research in Veterinary Science. 44: 303–308.
  5. Belák, S; Ballagi-Pordány, A; Flensburg, J; Virtanen, A (1989). "Detection of pseudorabies virus DNA sequences by the polymerase chain reaction". Archives of Virology. 108: 279–286.
  6. Belák, S; Ballagi-Pordány, A (1993). "Experiences on the applicability of the polymerase chain reaction in a diagnostic laboratory". Molecular and Cellular Probes. 7: 241–248.
  7. Belák, S; Thorén, P (2001). "Molecular diagnosis of animal diseases". Expert Review of Molecular Diagnostics. 1: 434–444.
  8. Belák, S (2007). "Molecular diagnosis of viral diseases, present trends and future aspects. A view from the OIE Collaborating Centre for the Application of Polymerase Chain Reaction Methods for Diagnosis of Viral Diseases in Veterinary Medicine". Vaccine. 25: 5444–5452.
  9. Nordengrahn, A; Rusvai, M; Merza, M; Ekström, J; Morein, B; Belák, S (1996). "Equine Herpesvirus Type 2 (EHV-2) as a Predisposing Factor for Rhodococcus equi Pneumonia in Foals: Prevention of the Bifactorial Disease with EHV-2 Immunostimulating Complexes". Veterinary Microbiology. 51: 55–68.
  10. Yacoub, A; Kiss, I; Zohari, S; Hakhverdyan, M; Czifra, G; Mohamed, N; Gyarmati, P; Blomberg, J; Belák, S (2009). "A simple assay for rapid subtyping and pathotyping of avian influenza viruses". Journal of Virological Methods. 156: 157–161.
  11. Leijon, M; Ullman, K; Thyselius, S; Zohari, S; Pedersen, J C; Hanna, A; Mahmood, S; Banks, J; Slomka, M J; Belák, S (2011). "Rapid PCR-based molecular pathotyping of H5 and H7 avian influenza viruses". J. Clin. Microbiol. 49: 3860–3873.
  12. Yacoub, A; Leijon, M; McMenamy, M J; Ullman, K; McKillen, J; Allan, G; Belák, S (May 2012). "Development of a novel real-time PCR-based strategy for simple and rapid molecular pathotyping of Newcastle disease virus". Arch Virol. 157(5): 833–844.
  13. Belák, S; Karlsson, O E; Leijon, M; Granberg, F (December 2013). "High-throughput sequencing in veterinary infection biology and diagnostics". OIE Scientific and Technical Review. 32(3): 893–915.
  14. Belák, S; Thorén, P; LeBlanc, N; Viljoen, G (2009). "Advances in viral disease diagnostic and molecular epidemiological techniques". Expert Reviews for Molecular Diagnostics. 9: 367–381.
  15. Belák, S; Karlsson, O E; Blomström, A L; Berg, M; Granberg, F (2013). "New viruses in veterinary medicine, detected by metagenomic approaches". Vet. Microbiol. 165(1-2): 95–101.
  16. Liu, L; Luo, Y; Accensi, F; Ganges, L; Rodríguez, F; Shan, H; Ståhl, K; Qiu, H J; Belák, S (June 16, 2016). "Pre-Clinical Evaluation of a Real-Time PCR Assay on a Portable Instrument as a Possible Field Diagnostic Tool: Experiences from the Testing of Clinical Samples for African and Classical Swine Fever Viruses". Transboundary Emerging Diseases. doi:10.1111/tbed.12538.
  17. Fehér, E; Bálint, Á; Marton, S; Bali, K; Belák, S; Bányai, K (Nov 8, 2019). "Coding-complete genome sequencing suggests that Newcastle disease virus challenge strain Herts'33 (IVMP) may represent a distinct genotype". Arch. Virol. doi:10.1007/s00705-019-04441-4.
  18. Bálint, A; Farsang, A; Zádori, Z; Hornyák, A; Dencsö, L; Almazán, F; Enjuanes, L; Belák, S (2012). "Molecular characterization of feline infectious peritonitis virus strain DF-2 and studies on the role of ORF3abc in viral cell tropism". Journal of Virology. 86: 6258–6267.
  19. Bálint, Á; Farsang, A; Szeredi, L; Zádori, Z; Belák, S (March 14, 2014). "Recombinant feline coronaviruses as vaccine candidates confer protection in SPF but not in conventional cats". Vet. Microbiol. 169(3-4): 154–162. doi:10.1016/j.vetmic.2013.10.015.
  20. Möstl, K; Egberink, H; Addie, D; Frymus, T; Boucraut-Baralon, C; Truyen, U; Hartmann, K; Lutz, H; Gruffyd-Jones, T; Radford, A D; Lloret, A; Pennisi, M G; Hosie, M J; Marsilio, F; Thiry, E; Belák, S; Horzinek, M C (July 2013). "Prevention of infectious diseases in cat shelters: ABCD guidelines". J Feline Med Surg. 15(7): 546–554. doi:10.1177/1098612X13489210.
  21. Granberg, F; Torresi, C; Oggiano, A; Malmberg, M; Iscaro, C; De Mia, G M; Belák, S (17 Nov 2016). "Complete Genome Sequence of an African Swine Fever Virus Isolate from Sardinia, Italy". Genome Announc. 4(6). doi:10.1128/genomeA.01220-16.
  22. "Prof. Sándor Belák was awarded the gold medal". European Advisory Board on Cat Diseases. 6 June 2012. Retrieved 11 December 2020.

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