About laboratory services

Advancements in biomedical science in recent years have made well-functioning laboratory services an important component of health systems and public health especially in terms of infectious disease diagnosis and control. WHO/Europe coordinates laboratory networks (labnets) and works with WHO collaborating centres to support the surveillance and control of targeted diseases, including the polio eradication programme, measles and rubella elimination programme, influenza, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and new and underutilized vaccines.

Strengthening laboratory services

Strengthening laboratory services includes several objectives.

  • Provide quality laboratory support for priority infectious diseases including those targeted for elimination/eradication or control, new vaccine programmes and the verification of health threats.
  • Improve the quality of laboratory services in the Region for routine surveillance, implementation of core capacities under the International Health Regulations and clinical purposes.
  • Provide guidance on the most appropriate laboratory technologies and best practices in the Region. Transfer technology effectively and share knowledge.
  • Promote the integration and/or coordination of disease-specific laboratories with other laboratory activities in countries.
  • Advocate for, map resources and coordinate their mobilization to strengthen the laboratory systems of the Region.

Building on the success of labnets

Labnets for polio and measles/rubella have played an important role in establishing and improving the basic infrastructure of laboratory services in Member States. This involved introducing:

  • standard operating procedures
  • external quality control
  • biosafety and biosecurity
  • high-quality technical guidance
  • upgrades of equipment and methods
  • laboratory staff training.

The polio and measles/rubella labnets also conduct an annual evaluation of laboratory performance leading to accreditation.