WHO training strengthens capacity of national influenza centres to characterize influenza viruses


Twenty-three virologists from 14 national influenza centres (NICs) in the WHO European Region attended a training course organized by WHO/Europe in partnership with the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza at the Francis Crick Institute (United Kingdom) and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Modelling, Evolution and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom).

The 2-day course took place on 24–25 October 2017 at the WHO-recognized NIC at the Research Institute of Influenza in St Petersburg, Russian Federation. It was tailored for laboratory experts from NICs performing virus isolation and antigenic characterization of human influenza viruses.

The course’s main objectives were to:

  • discuss and resolve current problems with isolation, identification and antigenic characterization of currently circulating human influenza viruses;
  • introduce the antigenic cartography methodology; and
  • give an overview of making influenza antigenic maps.

The course consisted of lectures and discussions covering different aspects of antigenic characterization of human influenza viruses and antigenic mapping. The first day was dedicated to providing an overview of currently circulating influenza viruses and of approaches to overcoming challenges encountered when performing antigenic characterization of seasonal influenza viruses.

In a practical session on the second day, participants practiced making antigenic maps based on actual data sets obtained from haemagglutination inhibition or virus neutralization assays.

The participants appraised the training very positively; the average evaluation at the conclusion of the course was 4.9 out of a possible 5 points.

The training was funded by the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework Partnership Contribution (PC) Implementation Plan 2013–2016. The PC Implementation Plan aims to strengthen NIC capacity and influenza virological surveillance in the Region, together with WHO/Europe’s high threat pathogens programme, as part of its annual training programme for influenza virologists.