Neglected Tropical Diseases

Neglected (tropical) diseases are high on the agenda. For many years, ITM has been actively involved in research on NTDs, in particular on leishmaniasis, leprosy and sleeping sickness.

Over one billion people affected

The World Health Organization currently recognises twenty diseases as neglected tropical diseases or NTDs. These are diseases (of which many are vector-borne) that mainly affect low- and middle-income countries. Because they mostly affect poor rural communities and often cannot spread outside the areas of the insect vector, there is little economic incentive for major investments to combat them; yet they cause severe health and socioeconomic problems.

Sleeping sickness

ITM supports the day-to-day implementation of the control programme for sleeping sickness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC is home to 80% of all patients of sleeping sickness. The aim of the collaboration is to eliminate disease transmission by 2030. ITM also produces the main screening test for sleeping sickness, the Card Agglutination Test for Trypanosomiasis (CATT).


To help eliminate a disease that has been with us since biblical times, ITM is involved in clinical trials that evaluate different modalities of post-exposure prophylaxis, a key intervention in the efforts to achieve full elimination of leprosy.


Leishmaniasis research of ITM is focused on East Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. In the latter, the disease has largely been brought under control. Current efforts are primarily focused on post-elimination surveillance to prevent a flare-up. ITM also produces the Direct Agglutination Test (DAT): a diagnostic test for leishmaniasis that is of utmost importance in East Africa, where the majority of commercially-available tests lack sensitivity.



  • National Reference Laboratory for Infectious and Tropical Diseases

  • WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training on Human African Trypanosomiasis Diagnostics

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Test for sleeping sickness developed and manufactured by ITM

For decades, a sleeping sickness test has been used all over the world that ITM not only developed but also manufactures to this day.

Research themes

  • antimicrobial-resistance-amr
    Bacteria have found various ways to develop resistance (AMR), of which resistance to antibiotics is a problem reaching across many different domains.
  • tsetse-fly
    Tireless effort is crucial to eliminate human African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness, in the world. For more than a century, ITM has been playing its part.
  • mosquito-on-human-skin-arboviruses
    Arboviruses such as dengue, chikungunya and Zika are urgent public health threats in tropical and subtropical areas.
  • malaria-mosquito-net
    By combining efforts on biological, human and societal aspects of the disease, ITM hopes to control and ultimately eliminate malaria in the long term.
  • vaccination-ctc
    Before vaccines or drugs can be used in the general population, their safety and effectiveness are thoroughly investigated in clinical trials.
  • hiv-test-positive-itm-clinics
    The research of ITM on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and AIDS is of inestimable value.
  • larval-sampling-MEMO
    For more than 10 years, ITM has been actively monitoring exotic mosquitoes in Belgium.
  • microscope-monkeypox
    ITM is closely monitoring the development of the mpox disease, both in Belgium and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
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    We help improve sexual and reproductive health in the world by combining scientific research, advanced education, policy support and capacity-strengthening initiatives.
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    ITM’s research on tuberculosis (TB) is world-renowned. Its shorter combination treatment for resistant tuberculosis was a worldwide breakthrough. Our researchers study new diagnostics and case detection techniques, with the largest public collection of TB strains in the world at their disposal.
  • plant-in-soil-ecohealth
    EcoHealth is an interdepartmental group that unites researchers from different backgrounds and disciplines. We all recognise the need for comprehensive, systemic approaches to address current health challenges that emerge at the interface between humans, animals and their broader natural, social and political environments.
  • blood-sample-sti-hiv-tests-policlinic-itm
    Since the beginning, ITM has been providing medical services to people returning ill from overseas. As such, ITM accumulated profound knowledge of tropical diseases, as well as STIs and HIV.
  • nazoanga-marche-antibiotics-study
    The right to health implies that everybody, everywhere should have access to the needed essential health products, included but not limited to diagnostics, vaccines and medicines.
  • sampling-research-ethics-itm
    Clinical, epidemiological and diagnostics studies, secondary analyses of health data and BioSamples, behavioural studies or any other studies that involve the participation of human individuals, should yield social value and be scientifically justified and ethically sound.
  • outbreak-guinea-ebola
    In a highly interconnected world, ITM continues to innovate and develop its outbreak research capacity.
  • covid-19-itm-envelope-1
    ITM has decades of experience fighting infectious diseases and curbing epidemics. We are fully committed to helping stop the COVID-19 pandemic that is threatening the world. To this end, we work together with partners at home and abroad.
  • said-centre-de-traitement-ebola
    Ebola is a deadly disease that was co-discovered in 1976 by researchers of the institute. ITM has been closely monitoring subsequent outbreaks on the African continent, as well as contributing to new developments in diagnostics and treatment.

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