The Unit of Tropical Laboratory Medicine (UTLM) was created in 2008 in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM), Antwerp, Belgium. It is headed by Prof. Jan Jacobs (MD - clinical microbiologist) and since 2015 clustered with the team of antibiotic stewardship lead by Dr. Erika Vlieghe (MD internal medicine/infectious diseases). The UTLM is linked through ITM’s interdepartmental program “Bacterial Infections in the Tropics” (BIT) with the Unit of Diagnostic Bacteriology (Prof. Stijn Deborggraeve) and Unit of Medical Anthropology (Prof. Koen Peeters) at the Departments of Biomedical Sciences and Departement of Public Health respectively.
The UTLM is involved in capacity building and operational research programs in low-resource settings addressing
- Laboratory quality
- Clinical bacteriology
- Antibiotic stewardship.
Laboratory quality includes laboratory quality management, performance and implementation of rapid diagnostic tests and quality of in-vitro diagnostics.
Clinical bacteriology focuses on bacteriological surveillance of invasive infections and appropriate, clinically relevant diagnostic techniques.
Antibiotic stewardship addresses correct antibiotic prescription and administration in the hospital setting and the containment of antibiotic resistance.
Research is further extended to tropical bacterial diseases such as invasive salmonellosis, cholera and melioidosis. Oversea partners and projects are located – amongst others – in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ecuador and Peru.
Service delivery by the UTLM further includes active participation to national and international working groups and advisory committees (Belgian Antibiotic Policy Coordination Committee, Superior Health Council Belgium, World Health Organization Prequalification of Diagnostics, Global Task Force for Cholera Control).
Jan Jacobs and Erika Vlieghe are also fully integrated into the Medical Services at ITM (as clinical pathologist at the Central Laboratory of Clinical Biology respectively as head of the Department of Tropical Medicine, University Hospital of Antwerp).
As to education and training the UTLM is actively involved in the courses of Tropical Medicine and International Health (lectures about hospital infection control and tropical bacterial diseases, laboratory medicine) and recently started up a short course on the containment of antibiotic resistance in low-resource settings.