Laboratory networking

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) helps strengthen and coordinate the networks of public health microbiology laboratories in EU member countries. The networks of  public health microbiology laboratories in EU member countries provide integrated epidemiological and microbiological surveillance of the communicable diseases listed in Decision 2119/98/EC.

ECDC also provides, at the request of the Commission or national governments, epidemiological and laboratory support for investigations and assessment of cross-border epidemic diseases or outbreaks of illnesses of unknown origin which may spread within or to the EU. The ECDC also helps develop laboratory capacity and capabilities through training and quality-assurance schemes.

The Consumers, Health and Food Executive Agency (Chafea) supports the coordination of the European member state network of laboratories financed by the European Health programme. The network addresses mostly highly pathogenic agents, bacteria and virus of Bio-safety Groups 3 and 4, and serious cross border health threats agents, such as HIV and zoonoses. These are also important threats to be addressed internationally and therefore, international cooperation for sharing of viral sequences for public health and research purposes is also encouraged.

The Commission also works closely with national governments to develop a system for EU reference laboratories. For example, in the area of food safety, the EU has already established the Community reference laboratories for monitoring food-borne pathogens in food and animal feed. In the area of public health, the Commission is currently supporting an initiative to review possible options for setting up such a system on the basis of existing EU legislation on communicable diseases (Decision 2119/98/EC).