In industrialised countries, allergies are constantly on the increase. They now represent the fourth leading public health problem. The different forms of allergy - asthma, atopic eczema, rhinitis and drug allergies - involve complex immune mechanisms, that require a multidisciplinary approach. For around ten years now, the Iris Network has established a reputation in this field as the leading department in the country in terms of diagnosis, treatment and also the prevention of allergic diseases. Within the Network, these conditions enjoy a coordinated approach, involving allergy specialists, organ specialists (ophthalmologists, ENT, dermatologists, pneumologists, internists, etc.), as well as nurses, social workers, dieticians and physiotherapists. Diagnostic techniques currently available include cutaneous tests, skin allergen provocation tests (including drugs, foods, insect venom) and non-specific and specific bronchial provocation testing for the responsible allergen.
The Iris Network is able to offer the expertise of specialists in immune diseases and auto-immune and immunodeficiency disorders. The QFCUH bone marrow transplant centre is able to treat severe combined immunodeficiency in young children via transplantation.
The Iris Network is also singular in being able to provide whole-life immunology and allergy care. The QFCUH offers allergy assessments for children and carries out no fewer than 5,000 consultations a year. More specifically, its Food Anaphylaxis Centre is able to assess and treat severe food-related allergies and around 500 children receive regular monitoring and expert advice from dieticians. Brugmann University Hospital also offers interdisciplinary allergy consultations for adults: each patient is offered a comprehensive full-day or half-day assessment of their medical problem.
The Iris Network now offers unique expertise in the fields of teaching and research. At CHU Brugmann, the team led by Professor Olivier Michel is considered a leading international authority on inflammation related to endotoxin, a substance associated with house dust mites. The Iris Network is also a leading force in providing the only specific post-doctoral teaching in immunology and allergy currently available in Belgium.
Long-term care and treatment
The transitional approach to immunology and allergy – from adolescence to adulthood – favoured by the Iris Network is relatively unique in Belgium: it involves providing comprehensive patient care over the long term. Particular attention is given to interdisciplinary care but also to the sometimes delicate transition from the paediatric phase of the disease to the adult phase, in both medical and human terms.
Thanks to its teams of clinicians and its unique immunology laboratory, the Iris Network constitutes a major centre for the treatment and study of inflammation. This occurs in both acute and chronic disorders and represents one of the research challenges of the 21st century. Another key area of research into inflammation is the differences that occur between men and women.