acknowledged by EUPHEM available for next EUPHEM cohort
Department: Infectious Diseases in Humans
Juliette Wytsmanstraat, 14
1050 Brussels

Contact person:

Dr Steven VAN GUCHT (EUPHEM main supervisor - Head of service Viral Diseases)

Tel. + 32 2 373 32 56


Description of the institute

SCIENSANO is the federal research institute for public and animal health in Belgium.

Sciensano can count on more than 700 staff members who commit themselves, day after day, to achieving their motto: Healthy all life long.

As the name suggests, science and health are central to its mission. Sciensano’s strength and uniqueness lie within the holistic and multidisciplinary approach to health. More particularly, we focus on the close and indissoluble interconnection between human and animal health and their environment (the “One health” concept). By combining different research perspectives within this framework, Sciensano contributes in a unique way to everybody’s health.

For this, Sciensano builds on the more than 100 years of scientific expertise of the former Veterinary and Agrochemical Research Centre (CODA-CERVA) and the ex-Scientific Institute of Public Health (WIV-ISP).

Major activities of the Sciensano are:

  • Surveillance of communicable and non-communicable diseases
  • Monitoring of animal health and food safety
  • National reference centers/laboratories (NRC/NRL) for a number of microbiological agents
  • Management of biological resources (collections of strains of microorganisms)
  • Analysis of health data
  • Control of federal product norms (e.g. food, pharmaceuticals, vaccines)
  • Risk assessment (e.g. chemical products, genetically modified organisms)
  • Environment and health
  • National and international representation of the Belgian health authorities

Further description of some departments at Sciensano:

The Scientific Directorate Infectious Diseases in Humans (IDH) (125 persons) acts as  contact point for the European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) for public health microbiology in Belgium. We host 14 National Reference Centres (NRC*) for Clinical Microbiology and all Food and some Veterinary NRL’s, like rabies and botulism, working within the frame of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) zoonosis network, including the NRL for Foodborne Outbreaks. The latter centralizes laboratory analysis and data collection in foodborne outbreaks and acts as a contact point between the food and human reference laboratories.  All laboratories are accredited according to ISO 15189 and ISO 17025 norms.


List of the National Reference Centres (NRC) in the Scientific Directorate IDH*:

-       NRC Clostridium botulinum & perfringens 

-       NRC Salmonella & Shigella species

-       NRC Mycobacterium spp - Tuberculosis & Mycobacteria

-       NRC Neisseria meningitidis

-       NRC Listeria monocytogenes

-       NRC Bordetella pertussis

-       NRC Toxigenic Corynebacteria

-       NRC Norovirus

-       NRC Influenza virus

-       NRC Measles, Mumps & Rubella virus

-       NRC Hepatitis viruses

-       NRC Rabies Virus

-       NRC Human Papillomaviruses      

-       NRC Congenital infections - Toxoplasmosis 


The Scientific Directorate Infectious Diseases in Humans performs research in the field of preventive immunology, immune regulations, host-pathogen interactions, new vaccination strategies, monitoring of human vaccination, diagnostics, molecular typing methods, antiviral strategies and antimicrobial resistance.  

The Scientific Directorate Infectious Diseases in Humans collaborates closely with the Scientific Directorate Epidemiology and Public Health. The latter department aims to analyse and understand public health and well-being and the way both are defined by specific determinants. It monitors public health trends and organises surveillance systems for a series of diseases and health indicators. It also assesses the impact of lifestyle and policy decisions and interventions on public health, as well as conducts research of healthcare services in order to improve the quality of healthcare.


The Platform for Biotechnology and Bioinformatics (PBB) includes the BIOTECHlab and the Bioinformatics platform. These transversal units have as main objective the development, improvement and validation of new molecular methods, such as next generation sequencing (NGS), and bioinformatics tools in close collaboration with the different scientific units. The PBB houses a Sanger and NGS sequencing platform. PBB develops methods to investigate and control outbreaks based on NGS and the development of the appropriate bioinformatics pipelines. It has several high-tech, state-of-the-art equipment (qPCR instruments, Luminex, Sanger sequencer, MiSeq…) and high level expertise in molecular biology. The Sciensano has invested in the installation and implementation of an in-house NGS platform (NGS Illumina MiSeq sequencer and accessory instruments to make libraries and to perform quality control), and a bioinformatics unit for data analysis and large-scale IT infrastructure (cluster) to be used for routine and R&D analysis of microbial whole genome sequencing (WGS). It is also currently exploring the in-house use of the MinION Oxford Nanopore sequencing technology.

Training opportunities

The trainee will be based in the Scientific Directorate Infectious Diseases in Humans and will be fully integrated in different infectious disease teams. Through collaboration with the other departments of the institute, Belgian universities, public health agencies and authorities, he/she will be able to gain experience in different areas of communicable disease microbiology. The trainee will be involved in several research area’s:

  • Surveillance of infectious diseases
  • Research in the field of bacteriology, virology and mycology
  • Integration within the activities of reference laboratories
  • Implementation of novel technologies (e.g. whole-genome sequencing for surveillance of pathogens
  • Evaluation of effectiveness of vaccination campaigns
  • Outbreak investigations
  • All necessary support, including up-to-date computer equipment, communication and library facilities are available.

The trainee will have access to all the information and databases.

Training supervision

The EUPHEM fellow will be supervised by the main supervisor (Steven VAN GUCHT) and co-supervisor (Pieter-Jan CEYSSENS) but also by other senior experts of the department. A trained microbiologist will always supervise the trainee, who will work as a member of a team.

Language requirements

Most activities can be performed in English. Conversational ability in either French or Dutch is an added value.

Training history

Number of EPIET fellows trained at institute: Eleven (1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017)
Number of EPIET alumni working at institute: Two

Number of EUPHEM fellows trained at institute: Two