Reference Laboratory Network

The Reference Laboratory Network (RLN) manages the sample archive comprising sera and other biological material collected in CIRN studies, keeping these accessible for future CIRN studies.

The sero-epidemiology group is conducting three national studies to estimate Population immunity to varicella, measles and mumps in Canada. The goal is to measure the impact of Canada’s immunization programs and to determine the risk of future outbreaks. These studies will generate essential data to inform public health and policy decision-making about varicella and mumps control and measles elimination. Having obtained nationally representative samples and data from Statistics Canada, as well as provincially representative residual sera from Ontario, laboratory testing is nearly complete and epidemiologic analysis is ongoing into 2017. As part of this work, the network has developed quantitative high-throughput enzyme immunoassays and reference tests for measles and varicella immunity that were not previously available in Canada. The manuscript describing the measles test validation was recently published (Hatchette T etal Clinical and Vaccine Immunology. 2017 Jan 5;24(1). pii: e00269-16).

Development of critical tools to assess vaccine preventable disease (VPD) immune status, for use by public health agencies, practitioners, and scientists, to assess VPD serostatus in Canada. One group is in the process of developing an assay for polio antibody determination while the other group has established low-volume, high-throughput assays for measles, mumps and rubella using inexpensive, commercially-available reagents. This project received leveraged funds from PHAC to conduct a study of rubella and pertussis serostatus in pregnant women (MIREC biobank) which was completed in early 2017. The manuscript describing the rubella findings has been published (Gilbert N et al. Vaccine 2017 May 25;35(23):3050-3055) and a second describing the pertussis findings has been submitted.

Effects of repeated annual influenza vaccination on hemagglutinin inhibition (HI) assay titres in healthcare workers. This project compares pre-/post-season vaccination HI titres, by strain, of healthcare workers who were vaccinated annually for the 4 most recent seasons versus those vaccinated in 0, 1, or 2 of the previous 3 seasons, adjusting for age, underlying chronic health conditions, and immunosuppressing therapies. Blood testing is complete and data analysis is planned for mid-2017.

The RLN labs have also provided influenza testing for several on-going or completed studies for members of CIRN (S McNeil, SOS network; B Coleman – HCW studies; M Loeb – CIHR Foundation award), the larger Canadian scientific community (I Colmegna – The Arthritis Society) as well as industry (MIT Technologies – MEDTEQ award).