Tuberculosis and mycobacteria

Unit responsible: 

Keeping mycobacteria and tuberculosis under scrutiny

The National Reference Centre (NRC) for Tuberculosis and Mycobacteria is a laboratory specialised in the microbiological diagnosis of tuberculosis and mycobacterioses, and in the molecular surveillance of tuberculosis.

Our goals are:

  • to diagnose mycobacterial infections and identify the clinical strains (up to species level) using molecular techniques
  • to confirm the diagnosis performed by peripheral clinical laboratories, upon request
  • to perform the drug susceptibility testing (bacteriological and molecular methods) for M. tuberculosis and non-tuberculous mycobacteria
  • to test the susceptibility of multi-drug resistant M. tuberculosis strains to second-line antibiotics
  • to investigate the presence of latent tuberculosis in patients
  • to perform genetic fingerprinting to identify outbreaks and transmission routes of tuberculosis
  • to organise the annual quality control tests for the Belgian network of laboratories which perform mycobacterial diagnostics.

Want to know more?

The species identification of mycobacteria isolated from clinical specimens is important to determine if the isolated microorganism can be considered as the cause of a given disease. Moreover, the treatment depends on the mycobacterial species and is totally different for tuberculosis and nontuberculous infections.

Fingerprinting is the determination of the DNA genotype of the isolated M.tuberculosis strains. It allows determining the degree of genetic similarity or polymorphism between isolates. When the isolates come from different patients, fingerprinting is used for outbreak detection or investigation (to trace tuberculosis transmission in the population). When the isolates come from the same patient, it can differentiate a relapse from an exogenous re-infection. Fingerprinting can also confirm suspected false-positive laboratory results due to cross-contamination between specimens of different patients during the technical process.

Available techniques:

  • microscopy of mycobacteria
  • rapid detection of M. tuberculosis cpx in culture by immunochromatographic test
  • species determination by species-specific PCRs
  • species discrimination using targeted DNA sequencing
  • species discrimination by line-probe assay
  • Bactec™ 960 MGIT drug susceptibility testing for M. tuberculosis
  • Canetti and Sensititre™ MIC determinations for nontuberculous mycobacteria
  • rapid molecular detection of M. tuberculosis complex and its resistance to rifampicin on sputum (GeneXpert®)
  • molecular detection of mutations associated with drug resistance (PCR, sequencing, hybridisation)
  • detection of latent TB by the Interferon Gamma Release Assay (QuantiFERON)
  • genetic fingerprinting using MIRU-VNTR, spoligotyping and Next-Generation Sequencing (MiSEQ technology)
  • laboratory infrastructure: BSL3

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