Research and development

Bruxelles Woluwe

Bacteriology Sector

A. Clostridium difficile and Yersinia (Michel Delmée, National Reference Center C. difficile and NRC Yersinia)

Clostridium difficile is the etiological agent of pseudomembranous colitis and the most frequent cause of antibiotic associated-diarrhea. In several recent epidemiological studies, this bacterial species was shown to be the first cause of healthcare associated infection. Since 2011, our laboratory has been established as the belgian National Reference Center (NRC) for this pathogen.

For almost forty years, our research on C. difficile has been focused on two main subjects :
• The bacteriological diagnosis of C. difficile infections (CDI) : several algorithms combining culture, immuno-enzymatic toxins detection and PCR have been developped and validated. They all aim at improving both performances and time to response.
• the epidemiological surveillance : in collaboration with the National Institute of Public Health, the NRC pursue in all acute hospitals in Belgium a continuous monitoring of CDI. In the frame of this surveillance, isolates are collected, characterized (toxin production) and typed molecular approaches like ribotyping and MLVA (Multiple loci variable number of tandem repeats analysis). The NRC is involved in several international epidemiological surveys.
• A fruitful collaboration with the veterinary faculty of the ULG has been conducted during the last years on the study of the role of animals and food as source of contamination by C. difficile.
• A project of analysis of the strains by Whole genome sequencing is currently developed.

B. Yersinia (Emmanuel André, Michel Delmée, National Reference Center Yersinia)

The laboratory is National Reference Center for Yersinia since 2011 and has a recognized expertise in the field of this enteric pathogen since the studies of Professeur Georges Wauters from 1970 to 2010. Molecular approaches for typing (MLVA) are developped and applied to epidemiological studies of isolates collected from all belgian laboratories. Epidemic clones circulating through several european countries have been identified recently. Virulence genes are characterized by molecular techniques.

 

Tuberculosis and Mycobacteria Sector (Emmanuel André, Anandi Martin)

Tuberculosis (TB) is the leading cause of infectious disease mortality worldwide. Every year, nearly 10 million people develop the disease, and 2 million die. Non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) cause a wide range of respiratory, skin and systemic infections. In some cases, these infections may be particularly severe, particularly in patients with low immunity, as it might be the case in the course of HIV/AIDS infection or in patients with cystic fibrosis. Both M. tuberculosis and NTM can acquire mechanisms of resistance to antibiotic treatments.

The aim of our research group is to develop for patients in Belgium and in other regions of the world tools for the rapid diagnosis of mycobacterial infections and resistance to antibiotics. After scientific validation, the new tools developed arerapidly used to improve the diagnosis of patients treated at the “Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc”. Our laboratory is part of the pioneers in the use of NGS techniques for the diagnosis of mycobacterial infections.

In addition to focusing on the diagnosis of infections, our group has set itself the ambition of bringing important innovations in line with the international goal of TB eradication. We participated in the drafting of the Global Plan 2016-2020 and we are involved in collaborative international projects to prevent disease, improve access to care and develop modern tools for disease surveillance. We have a BSL3 laboratory located at the “Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc” dedicated exclusively to tuberculosis. Our group works in close partnership with other research centers within the UCL as well as Belgian and international academic institutions. The laboratory also provides technical expertise to numerous international organizations. In 2016, a spin-off of UCL (www.savics.org) has been created in the objective to valorize the techniques developed by our team to interconnect laboratory networks, improve patient care and strengthening the surveillance of epidemics.

Our priority areas of research are:

​​• Development and evaluation of rapid diagnostic techniques for mycobacterial infections (molecular and non-molecular).
Development and evaluation of techniques for the study of the sensitivity of mycobacteria to antibiotics. See for illustration this publication.
• 
Discovery of new biomarkers for the early diagnosis of TB.
• Basic research on antibiotic resistance. See for illustration this publication.
Development of computer technologies to interconnect laboratories. See for illustration this publication.