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European Reference Laboratory Network for Human Influenza (ERLI-Net)

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 comprises nominated expert representatives from laboratories in all EU Member States and two EEA countries (Norway and Iceland) (Figure 1).

ERLI-Net has its roots in the Community Network of Reference Laboratories for Human Influenza in Europe (CNRL) which was established in 2003 to formalize 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). In June 2013, CNRL was renamed The European Reference Laboratory Network for Human Influenza (ERLI-Net).

ECDC coordinates all activities related to ERLI-Net. This includes those activities delivered by external contractors such as the central characterization of influenza viruses, external quality assessment (EQA), wet lab and online training for network members, and monitoring of influenza-related mortality in Europe.​

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).
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