European Network of P4 Laboratories
The European Network of P4 Laboratories (ENP4Lab) will build on experience gained from the previous Euronet-P4 project - preserving and strengthening collaboration among European P4 laboratories - and will undertake efforts to further enhance preparedness. The project partners will do so by focusing on the harmonisation and standardisation of existing practices, biosafety and biosecurity issues that are connected with the laboratory diagnosis of group 4 agents, as well as by considering the European enlargement process that will lead to the inclusion of new laboratories in the preexisting network.
There are three means to achieve this: (1) organisation of meetings of network partners and invited experts on biosafety or diagnostic issues for group 4 agents; (2) design and evaluation of a biosafety checklist to be used as an assessment tool for audits of new P4 laboratories; and (3) implementation of Quality Assurance exercises and a feasibility study on the operation of a deployable laboratory for outbreak investigations within or outside Europe.
The group 4 infectious agents must be handled in high containment laboratories classified as Biosafety Level 4. To date, such facilities in the European Community are operative in five countries only: Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, and the UK. Over the past two years, cooperation has been initiated under the Euronet-P4 project, and has led to the creation of a European network of P4 laboratories (Euronet-P4), for the exchange of procedures (regarding diagnostics and biosafety), reagents and staff for training, which need to be reinforced. Activities are directed towards filling the gaps identified in the area of group 4 agents diagnostics:[+] Read More
Furthermore, the network recognises that there is a strong need to provide assistance to the new European laboratories that are being built, as well as to establish a common strategy to provide diagnostic assistance to European countries that do not have such costly facilities. Lastly, a European mobile BSL-4 laboratory is urgently needed to provide support to outbreak investigations carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), in and outside Europe, in endemic areas or during outbreaks, and to collect samples to be used as reference biological materials to validate the new diagnostic tests.
The goal of ENP4Lab is to enhance European preparedness for emerging pathogens through efforts aimed at increasing collaboration among reference P4 laboratories in different European countries. The aim is also to make such experience available to other European countries, where new P4 laboratories are being planned or are under construction.
This will be achieved through the harmonisation of biosafety/biosecurity procedures and the standardisation of viral diagnostics. As a result, biosafety audits and diagnostic assistance will be made available to other European countries upon request. Support will also be offered to international organisations or agencies, such as WHO and ECDC, for outbreak investigations in or outside Europe.
The following are the main results expected from project activities:
In the coming years, the work of the network will offer a concrete opportunity to strengthen the global capacity of the European Community to face high-threat infections, based on reliable and validated diagnostic methods, agreed background biosafety measures and increased field investigation capability. In particular, the execution of a feasibility study for a deployable laboratory will allow EU health organisations to evaluate the overall effort needed for outbreak investigations in endemic areas or in case of an outbreak of a disease caused by a group 4 agent. For example, the study will also assess the advisability of either establishing a deployable laboratory or increasing the number of P4 laboratories within Europe in order to increase preparedness for group 4 agent threats.