The threat posed by emerging and re-emerging communicable diseases as well as by the intentional release of infectious agents in a susceptible population, has been receiving considerable attention at the national and international levels. Public health efforts to strengthen disease detection, surveillance and control have been intensified in the last years. However, clinicians and clinical microbiology laboratories play an important role in the early detection of disease, the identification of the putative agent, and notification of the appropriate authorities. To be effective in this role, laboratories must be specially prepared to handle viral agents safely, and need, among other things, the appropriate rapid and sensitive diagnostic tests. Evaluated and improved laboratory diagnostics are an important pre-requisite in support of surveillance and control of emerging viral infections, therefore quality control measures are essential.
Since 1999 we have established a number of external quality assurance programmes (EQAPs) to assess the quality of serological and/or molecular diagnostics of Hanta-, Dengue-, filo-, Lassa-, orthopox-, SARS-corona-, West Nile- and tick-borne encephalitis virus infection. A total of 134 invited expert laboratories from 52 European and non-European countries participated at least in one of our last programmes thus making successful our effort on the improvement and standardisation of diagnostics to strengthen the European laboratory capacity over the last decade.
Our constant work on diagnostic quality assurance helps to improve laboratory quality and is highly appreciated by the participants within our international programmes. Participants in these programmes - which are open and free of charge for every interested laboratory - we could provide excellent training possibilities and a unique opportunity to get in contact with the leading laboratories in- and outside Europe in the field of virus diagnostic.