Capacity building mission at the WHO National Reference Laboratory for measles and rubella in Serbia
Between 25th and 28th April 2016, Emilie Charpentier, senior technician in the Clinical and Applied Virology research group at LIH’s Department of Infection and Immunity, conducted a capacity building mission at the World Health Organisation (WHO) National Reference Laboratory for Measles and Rubella in Belgrade, Serbia.
Ms. Charpentier is the lead technician of the WHO National and European Regional Reference Laboratory for Measles and Rubella in Luxembourg headed by Prof. Claude P. Muller. ‘While our activities as WHO National Reference Laboratory include the laboratory investigation of suspected cases of measles and rubella in Luxembourg, our responsibilities as European Regional Reference Laboratory comprise virus characterisation, investigation of difficult cases and outbreaks, quality control, but also support and training of WHO laboratory network staff’, highlights Dr. Judith Hübschen, Deputy Head of the Luxembourg Reference Laboratory. ‘Our laboratory is one of only three Regional Reference Laboratories in the WHO European Region and is responsible for 22 countries including Serbia.’
That is why the laboratory responded quickly to the request from the WHO European Regional Measles/Rubella Laboratory Coordinator Dr Myriam Ben Mamou for a hands-on training at the National Reference Laboratory in Belgrade (within the Torlak Institute of Virology, Vaccines and Sera) following an on-site accreditation visit earlier in 2016. ‘There was a need to implement laboratory operating procedures and work practices for both ELISA and RT-PCR techniques that are fully compliant with WHO Measles and Rubella Laboratory standards’, emphasises Dr Ben Mamou.
During her mission, Ms. Charpentier provided guidance concerning laboratory standard operating procedures, the preparation and use of controls, transportation and shipment of clinical samples as well as laboratory biosafety issues. ‘The mission was very interactive and adapted to the local situation and needs’, summarises Emilie Charpentier.
In 2013, Ms. Charpentier had already conducted a 4-day onsite laboratory training at the WHO National Reference Laboratory for measles and rubella in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Similar to the mission in Serbia, the aim was to support the laboratory in complying with WHO accreditation criteria by reviewing and optimsing laboratory techniques and operational procedures related to serology.
While both onsite capacity building missions were executed on request of the WHO European Regional Office, the training in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was funded by WHO and that in Serbia was fully supported by the Regional Reference Laboratory in Luxembourg which is financed by the Luxembourg Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research as well as the Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS).
In addition to the onsite coaching, it is planned to invite the new head of the National Reference Laboratory in Serbia, Dr Maja Bancevic, to the WHO European Regional Reference Laboratory in Luxembourg for a two-weeks training on molecular diagnosis and genotyping of measles and rubella viruses and data reporting to WHO-supported databases. ‘The training is supposed to foster independent virus detection and characterisation in the country, which is becoming increasingly important in an era of measles and rubella elimination’, states Dr Hübschen.
From left to right:
Dr Maja Bancevic (Head of the National Reference Laboratory for Measles and Rubella in Serbia), Jelena Mitrovic (technician at Torlak Institute of Virology, Vaccines and Sera), Emilie Charpentier (LIH techician), Dr Jelena Protic (Head of laboratory at Torlak Institute of Virology, Vaccines and Sera) and Ana Novakovic (technician at Torlak Institute of Virology, Vaccines and Sera)..