The World Health Organisation (WHO) handed over the management of the world's largest public collection of tuberculosis (TB) strains to the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp. These TB-strains play a key role in supporting scientific research into infectious diseases, particularly towards a better understanding of the TB bacterium's drug resistance. In November, the European Commission and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned that antibiotic resistance in Europe was still on the rise.
The TB-strains of the WHO special programme for research and training in tropical diseases (TDR) will become part of the collection of mycobacterial strains within the Belgian Culture Collection of Microorganisms (BCCM) consortium. In addition to TB, this collection also includes Buruli ulcer strains. The TDR-collection was already located in Antwerp, but will from now on be officially in Belgian hands. This makes the public BCCM-ITM collection the world's most comprehensive database for TB bacteria typing.
The Federal Government established the BCCM consortium in 1983 to coordinate the collections of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms at Belgian institutions. Today, there are seven BCCM-collections, each of which is housed at the institution where they were historically cultivated and where they are studied.
The bacterial TB strains in the freezers of the ITM's secure laboratories represent the diversity of TB-strains worldwide, as well as the various patterns of antibiotic resistance.