Sciensano & Gonorrhea

Last updated on 29-5-2019 by Admin Drupal

The use of a condom is essential to protect yourself and your partners against STDs. If you have any concerns, you should have an STD screening test. In the event of an infection, make sure you follow the correct treatment and inform your sexual partners.

What does Sciensano do?

Sciensano publishes 2 reports each year documenting the evolution of STDs in Belgium. 

The reports are based on information provided by data-collection networks: 

All STDs are monitored by the network of clinicians, but only Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are monitored by the sentinel network of microbiological laboratories.

The reports are made public and transmitted to the authorities that can re-evaluate the policy for controlling and preventing STDs. 

Sentinel network of microbiological laboratories

The sentinel network of microbiological laboratories was founded by Sciensano in 1984 within the Epidemiology of infectious diseases service. 

It provides a way to gain insight into the number of cases of Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis with additional data on age, gender, place of residence, the type of sample and the diagnosis used. 

This epidemiological data makes it possible to establish the trends in and the evolution of STDs in Belgium.

The network covers 60% of STD registration activities at a national and regional level.

In Belgium, 99 out of the 178 microbiology laboratories are part of the network of sentinel laboratories:

  • 54 out of 95 laboratories (57%) in Flanders 
  • 10 out of 17 laboratories (59%) in Brussels 
  • 35 out of 66 laboratories (53%) in Wallonia

Sentinel network of clinicians

Since 2000, the sentinel network of clinicians run by the Epidemiology of infectious diseases service describes the characteristics of people suffering from an STD (including gonorrhea) and the factors that increase the risk of transmitting an STI.  

The participating doctors are gynaecologists, dermatologists, general practitioners, internists, urologists; and in addition family planning centres, sexual health clinics and student medical centres. Participation is on a voluntary basis. 

Since 2013, general practitioners' surgeries (sentinel network of general practitioners) have been integrated into the sentinel network of clinicians. They record any new episodes of Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and condyloma (HPV).

National Reference Centre for STIs

The National Reference Centre for STDs, hosted by the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, provides data to Sciensano on the molecular surveillance of the bacteria Treponema pallidum (syphilis) Chlamydia trachomatis (Chlamydia), Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonorrhea) and Mycoplasma genitalium.

It analyses the genetic type (serotyping) of strains of bacteria in circulation and determines which ones are no longer circulating. This enables it to predict potential epidemics. 

For example, for STDs, the NRC monitors the prevalence of different strains of the bacteria that cause Chlamydia as well as the level of resistance to antibiotics of the bacteria that cause gonorrhea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae).

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