Sciensano & Mycobacteria

Last updated on 10-12-2020 by Lieke Vervoort

In order to contribute to the diagnosis and monitoring of infections caused by mycobacteria, Sciensano:

  • provides diagnosis of tuberculosis and human mycobacteria
  • provides diagnosis of bovine tuberculosis on cattle farms
  • studies immune defense mechanisms and devises new vaccines and treatments
  • studies the mechanisms of resistance to antibiotics

​The diagnosis of tuberculosis and human mycobacterioses (National Reference Center for Mycobacterium. (human))

In Belgium, Sciensano houses the National Reference Center for the diagnosis of tuberculosis and human mycobacterioses. Every year, more than 3000 samples/cultures are analyzed there. In addition to the identification of species, the National Reference Center is responsible foranalyzing the resistance of the bacterial strains that cause tuberculosis and mycobacterioses to the antibiotics available. As part of the monitoring of tuberculosis in Belgium, the National Reference Center also conducts research on gene mutations that confer resistance to antibiotics and on genotyping strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosisin order to detect potential epidemics.

Analyzing bovine tuberculosis (National Reference Laboratory for bovine tuberculosis (animal))

The Belgian National Reference Laboratory for bovine tuberculosis is also part of Sciensano. This laboratory conducts analyses of suspected samples that come primarily from abattoirs. It confirms the presence of infectious agents on cattle farms. It also provides its expertise for the development of new methods, diagnostics and theimprovement of monitoring programs. They possess a collection of strains from Belgium that are useful for epidemiological investigations

Studying the immune defense mechanisms

Sciensano’s Immune Response department, in collaboration with various laboratories at international level (TBVI), conducts research in order to better understand the immune system’s response to infections/the infection and devises new vaccines or improves the efficacy of existing vaccines. Sciensano also has a research center that facilitates the containment of livestock at BSL3. This facility makes it possible to conduct tests on cattle in order to study the pathologies linked to mycobacteria.

Studying the resistance mechanisms developed by bacteria

With its Resistance to Antibioticsunit, Sciensano contributes to research on the mechanisms developed by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis to resist the action of antibiotics. This better understanding of the resistance mechanisms makes it possible to develop new, more effective drugs. Furthermore, thanks to its infrastructure, Sciensano is able to conduct a series of tests that make it possible to evaluate the activity of new molecules that are potentially capable of eliminating the tuberculosis infection.


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