Collaborations

UK NEQAS for Microbiology are proud of the ongoing collaborations with leading international organisations WHO (World Health Organization) and ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) for a consecutive number of years, providing bespoke EQA programmes for the examination of significant causative agents of infectious diseases.

A brief summary of current delivery of EQA programmes:

WHO Invasive Bacterial Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (IB-VPD), 2014-present:

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The WHO coordinates the Global Invasive Bacterial Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Surveillance Network, to support vaccine introduction decisions and use. The network was established to strengthen surveillance and laboratory confirmation of meningitis caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Neisseria meningitidis.

UK NEQAS in collaboration with WHO, provided an EQA annually (2014-2020) to over 120 clinical diagnostic and regional reference medical microbiology laboratories globally. An EQA for 2022 is currently in discussion.

WHO European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance network (EARS-Net), 2000-2020:

The high levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) remains a serious challenge worldwide and is considered to be one of the biggest threats to public health today.

A panel of six microorganisms exhibiting a variety of resistance mechanisms were distributed to over 900 laboratories from 30 countries, to identify and perform antimicrobial susceptibility testing on agents for treatment of sepsis.

Laboratories that participated in this EQA had the opportunity to review their individual performance and evaluate all areas where they did not achieve concordance with intended results.

WHO Central Asia and Eastern European Surveillance Antimicrobial Resistance (CAESAR), 2013-present:

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A panel of six microorganisms exhibiting a variety of resistance mechanisms were distributed to over 300 laboratories from 30 countries, to identify and perform antimicrobial susceptibility testing on agents for treatment of sepsis.

Laboratories that participated in this EQA had the opportunity to review their individual performance and evaluate all areas where they did not achieve concordance with intended results.

WHO C. diphtheria, 2021:

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UK NEQAS with the support of WHO Global Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Diphtheria and Streptococcal Infection, provided an EQA in 2021. Diphtheria is a severe illness of public health importance caused by toxin producing C. diphtheriae and C. ulcerans. The first distribution was dispatched in July 2021, and included four simulated throat specimens for the detection of Corynebacterium species (toxigenic/non toxigenic) to 40 clinical diagnostic laboratories from 36 countries. Final report preparations currently in progress.

WHO Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), 2019, 2021:

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a leading cause of hospitalisations due to acute lower

respiratory infections in infants and young children.  The World Health Organization (WHO) embarked on an ambitious project to establish an RSV surveillance between 2016-18 in order to provide the evidence base to guide the development of RSV vaccines and monoclonal antibodies and inform immunization policy and practice. The RSV surveillance is in alignment with and contributes to WHO’s General Program of Work towards preparedness and prevention strategies for priority pandemic / epidemic prone disease.  In order to ensure that laboratories worldwide were well equipped to fulfil this objectives, UK NEQAS for Microbiology was requested to run an external quality assessment (EQA) program to identify gaps in participating laboratories capacity to detect and type RSV A and B.

The first round of the EQA was carried out in 2019, to around 25 countries. The results obtained from the participating laboratories were excellent.  The second round of the EQA exercise is presently underway, with an extended participation base of over 65 countries.

WHO Malaria Molecular scheme (MM) 2017-present:

Malaria remains a global disease of concern. The WHO recommends diagnosis of malaria to be based on parasite identification, both in endemic and non-endemic settings. Furthermore, there has been an increase in usage of molecular techniques for identification of malaria infections. Molecular assays have lots of benefits, however, are not without their challenges- such as lack (or limited use of) standards and lack of reproducibility primarily due to variation in protocols amongst labs. Hence the need for a robust EQA scheme targeted towards molecular diagnostics was recognised by the WHO in order to offer an independent and periodic means for clinical, reference and research laboratories to verify the quality of their molecular diagnostic methods and to monitor performance over time.

An expert group meeting on establishing a WHO EQA scheme for malaria molecular diagnostics was held in June 2015 in London, UK, following which the WHO Global Malaria Programme worked with UK NEQAS Parasitology to launch a global EQA scheme in January 2017. The scheme has been operational now for 4 years running with over 50 participating labs globally. 

ECDC European Gonococcal Antimicrobial Surveillance programme (EUROGASP), 2015-2020:

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Antimicrobial Resistance in Sexually Transmitted Infections (ARMSTI) (UKHSA) recruited UK NEQAS in provision of an EQA delivering specimens containing strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae for identification and performance of antimicrobial susceptibility testing to 37 clinical diagnostic laboratories from 36 countries.

ECDC Legionella, 2019-present:

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Legionnaires’ disease is a serious form of pneumonia with a case fatality rate of between10 -15%. The aim of the European Legionnaires’ Disease Surveillance Network (ELDSNet) is to detect, control and prevent cases, clusters and outbreaks of Legionnaires disease in EU/EEA countries and assist with detection and response outside of these countries. The network supports Member states and other involved countries to share information and collaborate on response actions to provide better protection from travel associated Legionnaires disease.

ECDC to support the ELDS-Net endorsed UK NEQAS and FEPTU (Food Environment Proficiency Testing Unit) in the provision of an EQA, which provided an outbreak scenario with a panel of both clinical and environmental specimens.

The participating laboratories were given the opportunity to examine the simulated specimens for Legionella spp. depending on their capacity and technical protocols.