ERLI-Net comprises nominated expert representatives from laboratories in all EU Member States and two EEA countries (Norway and Iceland) (Figure 1).
The main objectives of ERLI-Net are to carry out virological surveillance of human influenza and to ensure that data are shared through the European Influenza Surveillance Network
(EISN) reporting mechanisms in a timely manner.
ERLI-Net has its roots in the Community Network of Reference Laboratories for Human Influenza in Europe (CNRL) which was established in 2003 to formalise the network of national influenza reference laboratories participating in the European Influenza Surveillance Scheme (EISS). From 1 September 2008, the coordination of influenza surveillance activities was transferred to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The network was renamed the European Influenza Surveillance Network (EISN). The concept of CNRL under the EISS project - to focus on further developing influenza reference laboratories’ cooperation - was retained in the new EISN programme. In June 2013, CNRL was renamed The European Reference Laboratory Network for Human Influenza (ERLI-Net).
Figure 1. Map of influenza laboratories participating in ERLI-Net. Click on picture to see full-size image (opens in new window)
Since 2008, ECDC has outsourced the laboratory activities of the network through a call for tender to a coordination group made up of a consortium representing three European Institutes:
- Public Health England (PHE), London
- National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), The Netherlands
- WHO Collaborating Centre (WHO CC), MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), London.
Mechanisms of working
The ERLI-Net coordination group aims to capitalise on the expertise within network laboratories by continuing to use dedicated virology task groups
to complete specific activities. This model of working has facilitated discussion and enhanced working relationships within the network by sharing best practices and harmonising technical approaches. ERLI-Net virology task groups participate in regular teleconferences and meetings. A wider meeting of all EISN virologists takes place once a year.
Collaboration with WHO
Most ERLI-Net laboratories are also WHO-recognised National Influenza Centres (NIC). They are supported by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, London, UK (WHO CC). The NICs participate in the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS). The EU/EEA Member State laboratories that are members of ERLI-Net report their surveillance data to The European Surveillance System (TESSy) database hosted by ECDC. Data from TESSy are transferred to the EuroFlu database
hosted by WHO Europe
from where they are shared with the global WHO FluNet
. All European NICs have agreed to the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Framework
and to its influenza virus traceability mechanism (IVTM), as have their national governments through the World Health Assembly in May 2011 (Motion 64.5).