European COVID-19 reference laboratory network (ECOVID-LabNet)

The European COVID-19 reference laboratory network (ECOVID-LabNet) is a subnetwork within the European COVID-19 surveillance network (ECOVID-Net). The network carries out virological surveillance of COVID-19 and strengthens laboratory capacity for COVID-19 diagnostics and virological characterisation of SARS-CoV-2, including genomic monitoring. 

ECOVID-LabNet includes laboratories with reference functions and laboratories with operational capacity for SARS-CoV-2 analysis and is coordinated by ECDC. The network collaborates closely with international partners such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the WHO Regional Office for Europe, and also collaborates on research projects with various partners.

Key tasks of the network include

  • Coordination of microbiological surveillance activities
  • Organisation of and participation in external quality assessments (EQAs)
  • Establishment of working groups to develop technical guidance documents
  • Roll-out of diagnostic assays to clinical and diagnostic laboratories
  • Analytical and clinical validation studies of diagnostic and serological assays
  • Direct detection of SARS-CoV-2 (using viral RNA and antigen detection assays)
  • SARS-CoV-2 virus culture if laboratories have BSL3 capacity (this capacity is essential to retain for virus characterisation and later vaccine strain formulation)
  • Determination of circulating (sub)lineages of SARS-CoV-2 by sequencing, genome analysis and antigenic characterisation
  • Set-up of serological and cellular assays for detection of antibodies and cell-mediated immune responses produced against SARS-CoV-2
  • Storage and biobanking of clinical specimens and virus isolates
  • Monitoring of antiviral susceptibility 
  • Organisation of training courses
  • Participation in ECOVID-LabNet meetings, as well as data, laboratory protocol and material sharing

Role of Operational Contact Points (OCPs) within ECOVID-LabNet

  • Represent laboratories that serve as national reference laboratories for SARS-CoV-2 and support national laboratory networks working on SARS-CoV-2
  • Serve as a technical resource on SARS-CoV-2-related matters for their national public health authorities
  • Serve as point of contact for ECDC on issues related to SARS-CoV-2 laboratory matters in their country
  • Adhere to their national and international biosafety standards for work with SARS-CoV-2
  • Adhere to national and international regulations on the transport of dangerous goods when shipping clinical specimens and/or virus isolates
  • Meet quality requirements of national or international quality standards and participate in external quality assessments (EQAs) conducted by ECDC and WHO
  • Maintain high-level technical proficiency by participating in trainings provided by ECDC or WHO
  • Report virus genetic sequence data to the appropriate publicly accessible sequence database
  • Regularly report virus detection and characterisation data to ECDC
Page last updated 12 May 2022