Communicable diseases

Projects to improve laboratories' diagnostic capabilities

Under the 2003-2008 and 2008-2013 Health Programmes, the Consumers, Health and Food Executive Agency (Chafea) is coordinating 8 projects. The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) also funds and coordinates 12 other laboratory-cooperation projects.

Projects coordinated by the Chafea

1. European Network of P4 Laboratories (ENP4 Lab)

Objective: to better enable EU actors to detect emerging viruses (risk Group 4)

Key results: inventory of EU P4 Laboratories capabilities (including the agents of expertise), development of a checklist for bio-safety and bio-security audits, standardisation of Group 4 agents’ diagnostics through quality assurance exercises and the elaboration of a Mobile laboratory feasibility study report.

2. Establishment of quality assurances for detection of highly pathogenic bacteria of potential terrorism risk (EQADeBa)

Objective: to validate and improve diagnostic capacities for bacteria (risk group 3).

Key results: establishment of a repository of quality-controlled reference samples of high-threat bacteria, performance of 3 external quality assurance exercises (EQAE), creation of a bio-safety and bio-security questionnaire (tested during the EQAE), development of a training programme for laboratory assurance of quality, bio-safety and bio-security.

3. Harmonizing European initiatives of high-level biocontainment laboratories (HEIBL)

Objective: forum on high-containment facilities (Rome, 2010), with 43 participants from 13 countries and representatives from EU departments (SANCO, ECDC, DEVCO, ENTR H4, Chafea).

Key results: exchange of lessons learned in bio-preparedness and research on high-risk biological agents in Europe. Recommendations to harmonize European initiatives of high-level bio-containment laboratories and stimulate future networking and capacity building initiatives.

4. Establishment of quality-assurance exercises and networking on detection of highly infectious pathogens (QUANDHIP)

Objective: to bridge frontline responders and the specialised (ENP4Lab) and (EQADeBa) networks, involving 33 laboratories from 21 EU countries. To support the performance of external quality assurance exercises (proficiency testing) for highly pathogenic agents groups 3 and 4. To develop bio-safety and bio-security check list used to audit laboratories. To define operational procedures to support the mobile laboratories action funded by DEVCO.

5. Global exchange of viral sequences to underpin health-threat response (GESTURE)

Objective: 20-participant conference (Bilthoven, 2009)

Key results: 2 technical reports addressing public health and legal issues related to the accessibility of microbial genomic data, to support countering outbreaks and epidemics of international concern to the public’s health, following IHR 2005 (IHR).

6. Network for control of public-health threats and other bio-security risks in the Mediterranean and Balkans (EpiSouth+)

Objective: the general objective of the EpiSouth Plus project is to increase the health security in the Mediterranean area and South East Europe by enhancing and strengthening the preparedness to common health threats and bio-security risks at national and regional levels in the Countries of the EpiSouth Network and in the framework of the International Health Regulations implementation. The project’s activities are articulated in WPs.

The specific objective of the WP4 (Laboratory Network) is to facilitate common threats detection by the establishment of a Regional Laboratories Network based on available resources in Mediterranean and South East Europe by mapping them, assessing their diagnostic and confirmation capacity, facilitating rapid access to laboratory facilities, interacting with public health institutions and officials based at the national reference laboratories in the participating countries.

7. Building capacity in non-invasive HIV/Syphilis prevalence estimation among MSM in Southern and Eastern Europe (SIALON)

Objective: to obtain reliable and valid information on HIV and syphilis prevalence, using a non-invasive outreach testing method in the countries of Southern and Eastern Europe.

Key results: a study to validate the "Elisa (EIA) BIORAD Genscreen HIV½ version 2 test" for detecting anti HIV ½ antibodies in oral fluid, a handbook on laboratory methods for HIV and syphilis tests on saliva, training of lab technicians to use the test for oral-fluid analysis (SIALON II), analysis of samples the HIV antibodies avidity index (STARHS).

8. European system of reference laboratories for human pathogens (EURLOP)

Objective: to prepare a framework of strategic options for an EU human-pathogen reference-laboratory system related to the diseases listed under Decision 2119/98/EC. The framework should take into consideration investigation of unusual and unknown pathogens and the need of all EU countries for access to high-level processing capacity.

Projects coordinated by the ECDC

1. European antimicrobial resistance surveillance network (EARS-Net)

Objective: This European-wide network of national surveillance systems provides reference data on antimicrobial resistance for public health purposes.

2. Network for diagnostics of "imported" viral diseases / collaborative laboratory response network (ENIVD/CRLN)

Objective: to help ECDC provide support – particularly that related to laboratory diagnostics – during outbreaks. To assist EU countries, candidate countries and EFTA countries in detecting, investigating and responding to outbreak-prone diseases, imported agents, rare agents, unknown agents and outbreaks related to intentional release.

3. European network for food and waterborne diseases and zoonoses (FWD)

Objective: to enhance EU-wide surveillance and foster timely public health action as a response to cross-border outbreaks for the following diseases: anthrax, botulism, brucellosis, campylobacteriosis, cholera, cryptosporidiosis, echinococcosis, giardiasis, hepatitis A, legionellosis, leptospirosis, listeriosis, salmonellosis, shigellosis, toxoplasmosis, trichinellosis, tularaemia, typhoid and paratyphoid fever, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), Verocytotoxinogenic Escherichia coli infection and yersiniosis.

4. European Legionnaires' disease surveillance network (ELDSNet)

Objective: to monitor Legionnaires' disease (the pneumonic form of legionellosis), with the involvement of all EU countries, Iceland and Norway. To identify relevant public health risks, enhance prevention efforts and monitor epidemiological trends.

5. European and allied countries collaborative Creutzfeldt-Jakob study group (EuroCJD)

Objective: to conduct epidemiological surveillance for Creutzfeldt Jakob disease. 25 collaborating centres from EU and EFTA countries, plus 8 other countries provide data from national registries.

6. European network for STI microbiology

Objective: to build on earlier antimicrobial resistance surveillance schemes and improve the quality of all bacterial STI diagnostics across Europe.

7. European influenza surveillance network (EISN), Community network of reference laboratories (CNRL)

Objective: to perform influenza surveillance through sentinel networks.

8. European reference laboratories network for tuberculosis (ERLNTB)

Objective: to support harmonisation of methods within the EU/EEA, develop External Quality Assurance (EQA) schemes and provide training activities to contribute to EU-wide capacity building.

9. Molecular surveillance of MDR-TB in Europe (MDR-TB)

Objective: to address concerns about the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis in the EU.

10. European diphtheria surveillance network (DIPNET)

Objective: to integrate surveillance – which covers all diphtheria diseases caused by toxigenic C. diphtheriae and C. ulcerans – from an epidemiology and laboratory point of view.

11. European invasive bacterial diseases network (EU-IBD)

Objective: to inte.grate surveillance of all invasive bacterial infections caused by N. meningitidies, H. influenzae and S. pneumoniae from an epidemiological and laboratory point of view, in order to help reduce the burden of diseases associated with invasive bacterial infections.

12. Surveillance network for vaccine-preventable infectious diseases (EUVAC.NET)

Objective: to manage the epidemiological surveillance and control of vaccine-preventable diseases. The two main diseases targeted are measles and pertussis.