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The LNS received the status of the WHO reference laboratory for COVID-19 testing

The LNS received the status of the WHO reference laboratory for COVID-19 testing
2022 11-24

As an urgent response in the field of public health is needed, the World Health Organization (WHO) is establishing a WHO COVID-19 Reference Laboratory Network comprised of laboratories able to provide confirmatory testing for COVID-19. The Laboratoire national de santé (LNS) has been granted this status in August 2022.


The attributed status highlights the effectiveness of the LNS’ Microbiology department in meeting public health risks emerging from COVID-19 and recognises the efficiency of its facilities and expertise in dealing with the public health crisis.

In coordination with the WHO Global Laboratory Alliance for the Diagnosis of High threat Pathogens (GLAD-HP), each of the laboratories participating in the network will:

  • Support the capacity building of other laboratories in diagnosing COVID-19, particularly those in lower and middle-income countries;
  • Provide a global reference resource of well-characterized viral strains and sequences;
  • Track the evolution of the virus causing COVID-19 and identify changes that may be relevant for diagnostic tests, vaccine development and/or antiviral treatment;
  • And develop and implement state-of-the-art methods and assays in order to perform the laboratory’s tasks arising from its participation in the Network.


Expertise and resources have been built to tackle the COVID-19 epidemic and future pandemics.

Furthermore, depending on the further evolution of the COVID-19 epidemic, the analysis development may include, among others: the development or refinement of molecular assays, the development of protocols for antiviral resistance testing; antigenic characterization; the development/assessment of specific tests for diagnostic humoral immune responses; and the development of tests for infectivity of recovering patients.


Dr. Tamir Abdelrahman, head of the LNS department of microbiology, highlights the importance of being part of the WHO reference laboratories Network: “COVID-19 has been a challenge to all health institutions globally and was not different for us. We had to build our national capacity in molecular testing and implemented state-of-the-art sequencing facilities (LUX-GEMM) which established our laboratory as one of the European public health microbiology hubs in the field of respiratory viruses. In order to coordinate the international fight against COVID-19, we had been nominated as the WHO-COVID-19 reference laboratory; this will expand our expertise portfolio and, by sharing expertise and knowledge with our colleagues across the globe, contribute to enhancing capacities in partner laboratories in Europe to ensure standardised excellent patient care and public health services”.


Network members have to succeed in overall assessment based on global public health needs

For any laboratory to be included in the Network, they have to succeed in an overall assessment based on global public health needs. Moreover, the ability of the candidate laboratory to fulfil the WHO Terms of Reference (TOR) is also taken into account, without forgetting the contribution that inclusion of such candidate laboratory would bring to the adequate detection of and response to COVID-19. Therefore, Dr. Trung Nguyen, in charge of the LNS’ virology-serology service, underlines the importance of keeping the laboratory and the team up-to-date with new technologies and methodologies: “We try our best to keep our service informed and trained on the new methodologies and technologies available out there. With COVID-19, everyone had to be up-to-speed to catch up with the fast evolution of testing, vaccines, variations of concern, etc. I am proud that we were able to move forward, learn and evolve during these adverse times.”


“It is a privilege for us to be nominated as WHO reference laboratory for COVID-19 testing. The entire LNS team works very hard in many scientific areas. Therefore, it is very important for us, as an institution, to see the effort of our microbiology department’s team resulting in this achievement. With this new recognition, we will continue our mission of serving Luxembourg as the national laboratory and collaborating internationally in public health”, emphasizes Prof. Dr Friedrich Mühlschlegel, LNS Director.


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