GREAT AT SMALL THINGS

0

BCCM/IHEM Fungi Collection: Human & Animal Health

 

 

BCCM/IHEM is a fungal culture collection specialising in medical and veterinary isolates. We have almost 15000 isolates available from all over the world: yeasts and filamentous fungi, pathogens and allergenic or toxic species, reference strains and teaching material. All fungi related to environment, agriculture, industry or food are maintained by BCCM/MUCL.

 

Embedding

BCCM/IHEM is embedded in the Mycology and Aerobiology section of Sciensano in Brussels.

In 1980, a culture collection of medically interesting fungal strains was initiated within the Mycology Laboratory of the Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (IHE), located in Brussels. Its detailed history can be found here. Though the culture collection kept its acronym BCCM/IHEM, the host institute IHE evolved to become Sciensano. The host lab became the Section of Mycology and Aerobiology and consists of four units:

  • the BCCM/IHEM fungi collection: human & animal health
  • the Medical Mycology unit
  • the Aerobiology unit
  • the Indoor Mycology unit

 

Scope of the biological material

BCCM/IHEM is a collection of yeasts and moulds of medical and veterinary interest. It gathers almost 15000 strains representing more than 350 genera and 1200 species of Ascomycetes, Basidiomycetes and Zygomycetes. The majority are human and animal pathogens, allergenic strains, mycotoxin producing species or various contaminants, isolated from clinical cases or from the human environment in general.

More specifically, fungal strains of the BCCM/IHEM collection are:

  • Species known to cause diseases and isolated from human or animal patients or their environment
  • New species described in the literature and presenting (potential) health risks
  • Pathogens reported in case studies
  • Known or probable allergenic strains isolated from the indoor and outdoor human environments
  • Strains displaying exceptional characteristics (e.g. aberrant morphology, resistance towards antifungal drugs)
  • Species producing mycotoxins (notably in food and indoor environments)
  • Contaminants of the human and animal environment (e.g. from food, end products, indoor facilities, materials)

The BCCM/IHEM collection accepts pathogens up to the class of risk 3.

The BCCM/IHEM collection has incorporated the entire collection of Raymond Vanbreuseghem (RV-collection) which was formerly housed at the Institute of Tropical Medicine (Antwerp) and includes numerous rare isolates from tropical regions.

Another interesting addition was the fungal collection from Janssen Pharmaceutica which has been integrated in the public BCCM/IHEM collection.

 

Quality

Besides its ISO 9001:2015 certification, the BCCM/IHEM collection is also ISO 17025 accredited for its quality controls, namely the verification of the viability, identity and purity of its strains after preservation. A sample of each batch is analysed after freeze-drying or cryopreservation in order to assess these parameters.

The collection is also ISO 14001 certified for its environmental policy. This certification involves that the collection is committed to a sustainable management of its activities. The latter includes waste reduction, energy saving, the compliance with and follow-up of the regulation, the analysis, surveillance and reduction of its environmental impact.

 

Remarkable fungal biodiversity on northern Belgium bats

BCCM/IHEM, in collaboration with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Ghent, investigated the fungal diversity associated with bat populations in Northern Belgium (Flanders). The goal of this study was first to detect the presence of fungal pathogens like Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the causative agent of white-nose syndrome, or dermatophytes that can cause skin lesions. It aimed also at evaluating the mycological diversity on bats and the role played by these animals in the dispersal of fungi.

With the help of the Bats Working Group of Natuurpunt, a Flemish nature conservation organization, about 110 bat individuals belonging to 7 different species were sampled in several localities across Flanders. Swabs were taken on various areas of their body surface and put in culture using different media and temperatures.

 

The analyses revealed very heterogeneous fungal communities with 209 different taxa out of the 418 isolates obtained. The number of fungal taxa per bat reached up to 12 in some specimens, with significant differences between sampling sites, suggesting that bats could be indicators of the fungal diversity of their environment. Many species appeared to be cosmopolitan or plant-associated fungi, such as Cladosporium spp., Penicillium spp., Aspergillus spp. or Alternaria spp. Moreover, some species that were previously known from a single strain or believed to be restricted to a particular environment were isolated, including Blastobotrys arbuscula, Arthroderma onychocola and Absidia stercoraria. Interestingly, a strain belonging to Apiotrichum otae, a species originally described from bat guano in Japan, was obtained.

Hibernacula were also sampled during the winter season but the presence of P. destructans was not detected.

A large part of the isolates obtained in the frame of this project have been deposited at BCCM/IHEM, with more than 300 new publicly available strains that enriched the collection.

A project by Uchrony