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WHO National Reference Laboratory Centre - Measles & Rubella

The department of Viroscience of the Erasmus MC is accredited as National Reference Laboratory for Measles and Rubella, as part of the WHO European Measles and Rubella Laboratory Network. This responsibility is shared with the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Center for Infectious Disease research, Diagnostics and Screening. The objective of the laboratory network is to document and verify elimination of measles and rubella from the WHO European Region, based on procedures developed for certification of the global eradication of smallpox and poliomyelitis.

Measles, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome are preventable through immunization. The diseases are important causes of global morbidity and mortality. All countries in the WHO European Region include highly effective and safe measles and rubella vaccines in their vaccination program. However, due to persistent gaps in immunization coverage outbreaks of measles and rubella continue to occur.

The WHO National Reference Laboratories have two main responsibilities:

  • Case-based laboratory diagnosis of suspected measles and rubella cases, and reporting of confirmed cases to the surveillance system;
  • Genotyping of measles and rubella viruses, and reporting viral sequences to the surveillance systems MeaNS and RubeNS.

All WHO regions have elimination goals for measles and rubella. The criteria for the verification of measles elimination are documentation of the interruption of endemic measles and rubella for a period of more than 36 months in the presence of an adequate surveillance system that can detect import-related cases. This must be supplemented with genotyping data that support the interruption of endemic transmission.

These efforts should eventually lead to the ultimate goal of global eradication of measles and rubella.