The constant presence of both existing and (re)emerging high threat pathogens is an ongoing challenge for global health security. Our Collaborating Centre is committed to supporting the WHO and its member states by providing technical guidance and capacity building in the critical fields of laboratory system strengthening for the detection and response of high-threat pathogens and biorisk management, a combination of responsibilities that for the first time is combined in one WHO Collaborating Centre.
The project aims to be supportive in laboratory system strengthening, by providing technical support in developing laboratory preparedness and response activities for high threat pathogens in conjunction with WHO. In addition, we aim to support WHO in the International Health Regulations (IHR) implementation through the establishment of Biosafety and Biosecurity Requirements and Biorisk management. We also share our expertise and lessons learned with relevant stakeholders for any type of ad requests.
Who is involved
The WHO Collaborating Centre for Laboratory Preparedness and Response for High Threat Pathogens and Biorisk is coordinated by Dr Doctor (Doctor ) Chantal Reusken (laboratory preparedness and response) and Dr Saskia Rutjes (Biorisk management) of RIVM's Centre for Infectious Disease Control. Many enthusiastic RIVM colleagues from within the Centre for Infectious Disease Control are committed to contribute to the WHOcc activities, but also colleagues from RIVM Centres, such as the Centre for Environmental Safety and Support and Operations. The WHO collaborating Centre is funded by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports.
WHO/Europe is establishing a Lab Task Force with the aim to build international laboratory preparedness and response networks for (re) emerging pathogens represents. To get a better understanding of gaps and needs, on-site assessments have been done to map national laboratory diagnostic capacities in numerous Balkan and Central Asian countries in close collaboration of WHO and WHOcc. Mapping covered the following topics: laboratory infrastructure, quality management, biosafety, human resources, procurement, sample transport, general maintenance and one health collaboration. The report has been delivered and concludes with identified strengths, gaps and needs and immediate recommendations and will guide in the next steps of lab system strengthening in the region.
Work in progress:
- eLearning on basic biosafety, that aims to train the basics of how to work safe and secure in the setting of a microbiological laboratory. Content is based on the 4th edition of the WHO laboratory biosafety manual, indicating that terminology like risk groups and biosafety levels are no longer applied. Risk control measures are now described as core requirements, heightened control measures and maximum containment levels. When successfully completed, a proof of attendance can be delivered by means of a certificate. We foresee translations into Russian language in 2024.
- Capacity Mapping Tool for High Threat Pathogens (Virus, Bacteria, Parasites, Fungus), to map which laboratories have which diagnostic capacity with the aim to strengthen the Lab Task Force network. The map is seen as a “Living document”, that requires regular updates. Aim of the mapping tool is to share information as well samples, protocols, assays, assay validation, etc.
- Sustainability assessment tool to assess the ability to maintain a laboratory capabilities and capacities continuously over time (tool not about environmental sustainability). The tool will be Excel based, will be included as an additional sheet in Laboratory assessment tool (who.int), covers four themes (Available Resources, Obligations & Network, Quality of services and Expansion of capabilities) with several subthemes, consists of 25 questions in total.
- Introduction training on requirements for working at BSL3 conditions in addition to regular diagnostic laboratory work (March and December 2022, June 2023)
- Supporting the development of a Target Product Profiles for Monkeypox virus diagnosis (November 2022)
- Hantavirus training in the Balkan, covering technical training on molecular diagnostics and serology as well as biorisk management training (September 2022)
Launch of the eLearning on Basic Biosafety in Q4 2023.
As a WHO collaborating Centre, RIVM is supporting WHO in its mandated role in laboratory system strengthening, by providing technical support in developing laboratory preparedness and response activities for high threat pathogens and biorisk. In conjunction with WHO Euro and Headquarters, RIVM is supporting or leading on agreed activities, that can vary from support in assessments, development of tools, delivering training, either at RIVM or in country, providing expert advice on emerging topics, and so on.