Sciensano & Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

Last updated on 7-7-2021 by Daisy Tysmans

Sciensano coordinates national surveillance programmes and surveys of healthcare-associated infections, antimicrobial use and antimicrobial resistance in hospitals and nursing homes. Sciensano also monitors antimicrobial resistance in food pathogens and in animals that are part of the food chain, and of selected species from human patients. We analyse trends and study characteristics and resistance mechanisms of resistant micro-organisms. 

Collecting and monitoring resistance levels on the national level

Our Healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial resistance team coordinates national surveillance programmes and surveys of healthcare-associated infections, antimicrobial use and antimicrobial resistance in hospitals and nursing homes. We produce time-trends and analyse the evolution of antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic use in Belgium. Sciensano also assists the European Commission’s DG Health and Food Safety in audits on the implementation of antimicrobial resistance surveillance (according to European legislation) in other member states.

Performing microbiological analysis of selected human pathogens

Our Antibiotics and resistance unit monitors antimicrobial resistance in Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria, Neisseria meningitidis and Mycobacteria isolates by screening them for resistance against a large number of antibiotics. The consolidated results lie at the basis of therapeutic recommendations issued by various health authorities in Belgium. The unit furthermore unravels the genetic mechanisms that cause resistance in bacteria circulating in Belgium and takes part in (inter)national projects that focus on the surveillance of antibiotic resistance, the development of new diagnostic methods and the implementation of advanced technologies in the field.

Our Medical mycology unit investigates pathogenic fungi (molds and yeasts) of medical importance (e.g. dermatophytes) and monitors resistance of these micro-organisms to antifungal medicines by performing sensitivity tests. The unit executes these tests to support treatment of patients, but also in the context of research aimed at e.g. developing new effective antifungal agents.

Analysing resistance in bacteria isolated from food and healthy animals

Sciensano is National Reference Laboratory for Antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic and indicator bacteria from food, food producing animals and feed. Our Bacteria and resistance transmitted by food team analyses foodstuffs of animal and vegetable origin for any bacteria that present a danger to human health. The team isolates food borne pathogens (Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli ESBL) from food, feed and animals and maps the presence of antimicrobial resistance. In addition, the NRL AMR monitors commensal bacteria (E. coli) from the gastrointestinal tract of food producing animals to detect the occurrence and trends in resistance.

Our Veterinary bacteriology team monitors the evolution of resistance to antibiotics in bacteria isolated from farm animals (e.g. MRSA and Enterococci) by performing susceptibility testings. This unit also studies the emergence and propagation of antibiotic resistance genes, paying particular attention to those that present a risk to the success of antibiotics therapy in human medicine. To this aim, cutting-edge technologies including whole genome sequencing are used.

Our Veterinary epidemiology team performs the epidemiological and statistical analysis of national antimicrobial resistance data in animals. They produce the annual antimicrobial resistance report in livestock for Belgium according to the EU Decision 2013/652/EC , in collaboration with the Sciensano laboratories.

All units together, the NRL AMR is also coordinating and participating in several research projects aiming a.o. to:

  • develop new molecular tools to detect easily, quickly and at affordable price several critical antimicrobial resistance genes at once
  • explore the emergence of new AMR threats (e.g. resistance to last resort antibiotics or emerging MDR pathogens).

To quality-check our testing performance, our laboratories regularly participate in different proficiency tests.

Test methods available to authorities and health professionals

Discover Sciensano’s test methods available to authorities and health professionals.

QR code

QR code for this page URL