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18 Oct 2016

Doherty Institute develops online portal for worldwide measles laboratories

The Doherty Institute has developed an online portal for 240 national measles and rubella laboratories around the world to enhance submission of their proficiency testing results as part of the global effort to eliminate these diseases.

Measles is a highly infectious virus that can in some cases cause pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Rubella can be devastating in pregnancy with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) being a major cause of congenital abnormalities, including deafness.

Head of the Infectious Diseases Serology Laboratory at the Doherty Institute, Suellen Nicholson said the Institute uses its expertise to work with the Australian Government and the World Health Organization (WHO) with the aim of achieving elimination of measles and rubella nationally and globally.

“The WHO Western Pacific Region’s Measles Regional Reference Laboratory (MRRL), based at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL) at the Doherty Institute, is part of a worldwide network of laboratories working towards the elimination of measles and rubella transmission globally,” she said.

Every year since 2001, a proficiency panel of 20 well characterised serum samples for measles and rubella serological testing has been distributed by the WHO to the now 240 measles and rubella laboratory network members to help keep them performing up to the highest standard.

The panel is prepared by the WHO Western Pacific Region’s MRRL based at the Doherty Institute. The results submitted by each participating laboratory are assessed and scored at the MRRL, based on criteria such as accuracy and timeliness of test result and data reporting. The aim of the proficiency panel is to ensure high quality and internationally consistent laboratory support for the measles and rubella elimination effort.

The Doherty Institute’s Vicki Stambos and Dallas Wilson developed an online portal for the 240 international laboratories to easily submit global proficiency results. The final score achieved in the proficiency program contributes to each laboratory’s annual accreditation review conducted by the WHO.

Ms Stambos attended the WHO Global Headquarters meeting in Geneva where she presented the Global Proficiency Panel results for 2015. She also demonstrated the new online reporting portal and scoring system at the WHO European Regional meeting in Montenegro.

The WHO verified Australia as having achieved measles elimination in 2014 in part based on measles genotyping and molecular epidemiology work by Thomas Tran in VIDRL at the Doherty Institute.

“Through the use of detailed genotypic analysis of isolates obtained between 2008 and 2012, we confirmed that no endemic measles transmission was circulating in Australia over this time,” Mr Tran said. VIDRL has continuously monitored measles molecular epidemiology for Australia since 2001, and has recently begun to extend this molecular surveillance to include rubella.