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UCLouvain Allergy Center (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium)

UCLouvain Allergy Center

History of the center:

The Cliniques universitaires Saint-Luc (https://www.saintluc.be/en/index.php), located in the south of Brussels, and Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Namur – site Godinne located in Wallonia are the two academic hospitals of the Université catholique of Louvain (UCLouvain), Belgium. Those hospitals comprise 970 and 450 beds, 450,000 and ~200,000 consultations per year, respectively, and globally > 10,000 (25% of physicians) health care workers.

The UCLouvain center of allergy, officially recognized in 2009, includes more than 20 physicians and several health care persons and scientists, with specialized activities across different departments: Pediatrics (Pr Smets and Goubau), Dermatology (Pr Baeck and Dr Herman), Pulmonology (Dr Pirson and Sohy, Pr Froidure, Pilette and Vandenplas) and ENT (Pr Rombaux and Hox). This center fosters allergy specialists to share experience and knowledge and makes advantage of the expertise of clinical activities undertaken by organ- and allergy specialists, a dedicated clinical laboratory, as well as of Faculty units with investigators involved in research and teaching in allergy.

Allergy clinics:

Clinical allergology is performed through outpatient clinics, including lung function, fiberoptic exploration of airways, skin-prick testing and biological tests (specific IgE, tryptase), as well as multidisciplinary (ENT-pulmonologist) or transition clinics. Both hospitals deserve the required facilities for specialized immediate (foods, drugs, venoms) or delayed (drugs) skin testing, provocation tests and reintroduction or desensitization protocols (drugs), as well as inhalation challenges with occupational agents (Godinne site). Protocols for management and reporting of adverse allergic reactions are shared with the other departments (e.g., Emergency, Anesthesiology). Specialized biological tests (IgE immunoblots, basophil or T-cell activation tests) are carried out in the research pole that is connected to the Center.

Allergy research:

Clinical research is performed in our tertiary hospitals with industry-sponsored and academic trials, notably with biologics and allergen immunotherapies for severe allergic diseases.

Basic and translational research is driven in the two main research laboratories associated to the Centre: the pole of Pediatrics (head, Pr E. Sokal) and the pole of Pulmonology, ENT and Dermatology (head, Pr Ch. Pilette), which belong to the Institute of Experimental and Clinical Research (IREC, https://uclouvain.be/en/research-institutes/irec) where researchers benefit from cutting-edge platforms in flowcytometry, tissue and cell imaging as well as molecular biology and biostatistics. In the last 3 years, the Centre members have published > 75 scientific papers dedicated to allergy.

Allergy teaching and training:

The Centre has developed teaching programs in allergology at the Medical School of UCLouvain: one course in Master 1 (15 hours) since 2015, one optional complementary course for the same level (15 hours). It also includes the training of several MD fellows and PhD students (10 PhD thesis on allergy during the last three years), scientific meetings and one symposium every two years, as well as a training program in food allergy for dieticians.

Scientific and global achievements:

Our Center activities has led to several achievements, among which:
Identification of an immune/cytokine signature of IgE-mediated allergy in the birth cohort Cristall study (Smets F et al.), of the contact allergen of allergic dermatitis to glucose sensors (acrylate derivatives) (Herman A, Baeck M et al.) and the role of IL-9 in contact dermatitis, and of an IgA2 subclass response to allergen immunotherapy (Pilette C et al.);
Improved diagnosis and phenotyping of work-related rhinitis and asthma (Vandenplas O et al.);
Coordination of a national registry of anaphylaxis (Pirson F et al.), of the steering committee of the Belgian Severe Asthma registry and of a multinational pragmatic trial platform (called “predictumab”) for biologics in severe asthma (Pilette C et al.);
Participation to several taskforces to improve diagnosis and management of rhinitis (Rombaux, Hox et al.) and asthma, as well as Presidency of the national, Belgian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (Pr Froidure; BelSACI, https://www.belsaci.net/).

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