High marks for laboratories of the WHO European Measles and Rubella Laboratory Network

WHO/M. Ben Mamou

Samples to be tested in measles and rubella laboratory in Ukraine

64 of the 67 tested laboratories in the European Measles and Rubella Laboratory Network (MR LabNet) have achieved full accreditation for 2018. An additional laboratory received provisional accreditation, and 2 accreditations are pending until onsite visits are conducted later in the year.

The scope of accreditation varies across the WHO European Region, depending on the laboratory’s routine activities and external quality assessment results. Several laboratories are accredited for all measles and rubella serology and molecular investigations, and others for only some of these activities.

Several laboratories demonstrated improvements over last year in 3 essential accreditation criteria:

  • timeliness of immunoglobulin M (IgM) results reporting;
  • implementation of internal quality control procedures; and
  • timeliness of reporting viral sequences to WHO measles and rubella nucleotide surveillance databases MeaNS and RubeNS.

Critical role of laboratories in eliminating measles and rubella

WHO/Europe coordinates the MR LabNet, which was established in 2002 to facilitate high-quality laboratory investigation of potential measles and rubella cases. This work is essential to detect and respond to outbreaks as early as possible. In addition, once endemic transmission of either disease has been interrupted, laboratory data spanning at least 3 years are needed to verify that the disease has been eliminated at the national and eventually the regional level.

As highlighted by the midterm review of the Global measles and rubella strategic plan 2012–2020, laboratory-supported measles and rubella surveillance is critical to monitor the progress of immunization programmes.

Annual review

The MR LabNet comprises 71 laboratories, including the 67 subnational and national reference laboratories operating in 48 of the Region’s 53 Member States. In addition to providing technical guidance and support, WHO/Europe supervises an annual accreditation review that assesses the performance of the participating laboratories.

The assessment completed in 2017 covered all 67 national and subnational laboratories. It included a review of more than 100 individual reports of serology and molecular external quality assessment results, and 7 onsite visits.

This annual assessment provides WHO with the opportunity to support individual laboratories in implementing WHO guidance and procedures, identify needs for capacity-building and skills strengthening, ensure consistency across the Region, enhance collaboration between WHO national and regional reference laboratories, and support the work of the European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination.