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QUANDHIP – Quality Assurance Exercises and Networking on the Detection of Highly Infectious Pathogens

(EAHC Grant Agreement Number 2010 21 02)

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The EU funded Joint Action QUANDHIP is running for 3 years from August 2011 until July 2014. It aims to link and consolidate the objectives of two existing networks dealing with highly infectious bacteria and viruses that emerged from the EU funded project EQADeBa, coordinated by the Robert Koch-Institut (RKI), Germany (EAHC n° 2007 204) and the ENP4-Lab project, coordinated by L.Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases (INMI), Italy (EAHC n° 2006 208). The primary objective of the current project is to stabilise both network activities that link 33 highly specialised and advanced laboratories from 21 European countries. This will ensure the universal exchange of best diagnostic strategies able to support a European response strategy to outbreaks of highly pathogenic infectious agents plus generating a biodiverse repository of reference materials. The JA intends to provide a supportive European infrastructure and strategy for bacterial antibiotic susceptibility testing, training, and external quality assurance exercises (EQAE) according to biosafety and biosecurity review of current practices.

The project is directed at ensuring and improving citizens´ health security and bridging Security and Health by improving the laboratory diagnostic capabilities of appointed European laboratories to detect high consequence pathogens in situations arising from natural outbreaks and deliberate or accidental release. These outbreaks would not respect national borders. A closely aligned European specialised laboratory network will ensure the universal ability to respond with rapid diagnostics of highly pathogenic bacteria or viruses in support of clinical and public health outbreak management. Moreover, the network has the ability to enhance the support of other agencies (veterinary, forensic) dealing with suspected or confirmed bioterrorist incidents. Participants of this project will evaluate and develop rapid diagnostic tools to provide the necessary infrastructure to support the effectiveness of mobile “field” diagnostics. This would also contribute to enhance the global health security capacity and address the requirements of the International Health Regulations.

Repositories of reference material for risk group 3 and 4 pathogens will be extended and distributed to network participants for evaluation of established and innovative diagnostic tools. The repository of reference material will be used for the several EQAEs. The focus will be directed on the diagnosis and detection of high threat bacteria of a potential bioterrorism risk, causing anthrax, tularemia, plague, glanders, melioidosis, brucellosis, and Q-fever as well as on risk group 4 agents such as Filovirus, Arenavirus, CCHFV, OPV, Nipah and Hendra viruses. These exercises offer the cross-boarder opportunity to evaluate the accuracy and suitability of rapid assays with complex sample matrices; evaluate antibiotic susceptibility for bacteria, sampling strategies, and data interpretation. The need for training will be identified and courses will be provided by experienced partners.

Both, the EQADeBa and ENP4-Lab project revealed a need for the sustainability of European capacity and capability building for the detection and identification of highly infectious bacteria and viruses based on national and international cooperation. The consolidation of the existing networks will ensure European laboratory preparedness to manage natural and deliberate outbreaks of high consequence pathogens. This structure will provide the necessary early response capabilities to support and inform public health control measures, clinical patient management, epidemiological and forensic investigations.

Date: 20.01.2013