Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp
Leen Rigouts joined the Mycobacteriology Unit of Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium in 1989, where she supervised and accomplished projects covering various aspects of human and bovine tuberculosis (TB) and non-tuberculous mycobacterial diseases. She is skilled at the integration of classical microbiological, molecular epidemiological and clinical data in the study of (drug-resistant) tuberculosis distribution in low- and high-endemic countries, with a focus on the presence of mixed Mycobacterium tuberculosis infections and drug resistance mechanisms and diagnosis. She is expert in detection, isolation, identification and drug-susceptibility testing of mycobacteria using classical microbiological and molecular biological tools in BSL3-grade conditions and according to GxP practices. Leen and her team are trained in molecular diagnostic and genotyping techniques, including next generation sequencing applications, variant calling and phylogeny.
Since 2011, she manages the BCCM/ITM collection of mycobacterial strains (http://bccm.belspo.be/about-us/bccm-itm), which revived her interest in species identification and taxonomy of non-tuberculous mycobacteria. This public repository has the largest and most diverse collections of well documented mycobacteria strains worldwide characterized by phenotypic and/or genotypic tests (Hazbon et al., 2019). It comprises strains from human and animal origin from all continents spanning from 1960 to date, with an emphasis on drug-resistant M. tuberculosis complex, M. ulceransand the clinically most relevant non-tuberculous species. The collection houses important Type strains and renowned panels of reference strains serving as valid tools for research and product development, such as the World Health Organization TDR-TB strain Bank (Vincent et al., 2012), and the reference set of M. tuberculosis clinical strains (Borrell et al., 2019), as well as the largest (>8000) resource of mutants of M. bovis BCG vaccine strains (>8000). BCCM/ITM also provides services in species identification, drug-susceptibility testing and component screening.