Sciensano conducts research into the presence of S. aureus, predominantly coagulase positive staphylococci, in our food and closely monitors developments in this area. On this basis, we develop new detection and typing methods. In addition, we coordinate the national surveillance of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in hospitals and nursing homes, and monitor MRSA in pigs, chickens and cattle.
National Reference Laboratory for coagulase-positive staphylococci (NRL CPS)
The Sciensano Food Pathogens department is the National Reference Laboratory for coagulase-positive staphylococci (NRL CPS). We analyze food samples as part of the official monitoring program of the AFSCA to detect the presence of CPS and their enterotoxins. We also conduct research into these food intoxications.
The NRL CPS works together with the European Reference Laboratory for CPS to monitor CPS trends and develop new detection and typing methods. It is, together with the NRL for natural toxins, also involved in scientific research projects (e.g. BeReady, Tox Detect) for the development of new detection methods for enterotoxins (NGS, LC-MS/MS) and for the characterization of CPS in Belgium.
The NRL CPS counts coagulase-positive staphylococci and detects their enterotoxins as per ISO 6888-1 and ISO/TS 19020 respectively, under ISO17025 accreditation.
Fine typing of CPS is based on molecular techniques, including qPCR methods of the enterotoxin genes, Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis and Next-Generation Sequencing. The NRL CPS also organizes ring tests to verify the quality of the laboratories that have been approved by the AFSCA to detect this bacterium.
MRSA surveillance in Belgian (acute) hospitals and in Belgian residential care centers
The Sciensano Healthcare-associated infections and antibiotic resistance department has coordinated the continuous surveillance of MRSA in Belgian (acute) hospitals since 1994. The latter are required by Royal Decree to report their figures on MRSA to us annually, making it possible to monitor the development of the number of MRSA infections over time. In addition, we also regularly map the MRSA carriers in Belgian residential care centers.
We provide the framework for the national surveillance of MRSA in acute hospitals and supply the necessary tools, such as standard definitions, methods and feedback systems that provide national reference data on the prevention of healthcare-associated infections and antibacterial resistance in Belgium. We analyze this information and provide feedback to the hospitals and policy makers.
MRSA surveillance in livestock
NRL Antimicrobial Resistance in Animals (established in the General bacteriology unit of the Sciensano Veterinary bacteriology department) monitors the presence of MRSA in livestock (pigs, chickens and cattle). To this end, we take samples annually from one of these groups and analyze the susceptibility of the isolated staphylococci to antibiotics. We determine the genetic (spa) type of each MRSA isolate we find. We work together with the Sciensano Veterinary Epidemiology department to follow the development of MRSA in the livestock. The data are reported to the Belgian (AFSCA) and European (EFSA) authorities.
We detect and characterize MRSA on the basis of the analysis of their DNA. We work together with epidemiologists to follow the development of MRSA in the livestock and investigate the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance genes. In this regard, we pay particular attention to the genes that jeopardize the success of antibiotic treatments in human medicine.