Microbiology reference laboratories are critical in the development of high-quality clinical and public health services. In Belgium, the reference laboratories performed their activities on a voluntary basis and lacked a legal status.
Pathogens or groups of pathogens necessitating a national reference center (NRC) were prioritized based on diagnostic and epidemiologic relevance. Terms of reference for each of these pathogens were developed.
Recently, 40 NRCs for different pathogens or groups of pathogens have been installed in Belgium to fulfill the following core functions: offering reference diagnostics, collecting reference materials, sharing information and scientific advice, participating in national and international networks, collaborating with research workgroups, and contributing to surveillance activities.
These NRCs are important focal points of the national and international network in public health microbiology.
Keywords: National reference centers, Public health microbiology