Medical mycology

Unit responsible: 

Monitoring and investigating fungal infections

Medical mycology investigates conditions caused by pathogenic fungi. An example of such fungi are the dermatophytes, which can cause superficial infections of the skin, hair or nails. These infections tend to be harmless, but can be extremely persistent. We investigate these superficial fungal infections and monitor outbreaks, for example, of scalp fungi among children in schools and nurseries in Belgium. We also investigate the taxonomy of these fungi.

Because there are indications that fungi become resistant to possible treatments, we are monitoring this problem. We also help hospitals and care centres to prevent nosocomial infections with fungi or yeasts. For this we check hospital and care centre environments for the presence of fungi that can cause infections in certain patient groups.

Medical laboratories analyse fungi to obtain information about the health of a patient for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases. We evaluate the quality of these laboratories.

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Mapping fungal infections

We monitor outbreaks of tinea capitis in Belgium. We also perform sensitivity tests on antifungal agents to map resistance.

Taxonomy of fungi

The species definition of the group of dermatophytes is unclear. We try to clarify the taxonomy within this group using a combination of phylogeny, morphological observations and the examination of epidemiological characteristics.

Preventing nosocomial infections

The presence of thermotolerant fungi in a patient’s environment can lead to nosocomial infections. By screening the hospital environment for the presence of these fungi (incl. Aspergillus fumigatus) and providing advice on the measures to be taken, we contribute to the prevention of these infections.

Evaluating the quality of medical laboratories for fungal analyses

We also organise ring tests, in which we check the quality of laboratories with regard their ability to identify fungi. Laboratories that sign up for this test are sent a number of samples to identify 4 times a year. They must identify these strains correctly and are given feedback.

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