BackgroundNeurotropic arboviruses are increasingly recognised as causative agents of neurological disease in Europe but underdiagnosis is still suspected. Capability for accurate diagnosis is a prerequisite for adequate clinical and public health response.AimTo improve diagnostic capability in EVD-LabNet laboratories, we organised an external quality assessment (EQA) focusing on molecular detection of Toscana (TOSV), Usutu (USUV), West Nile (WNV) and tick-borne encephalitis viruses (TBEV).MethodsSixty-nine laboratories were invited. The EQA panel included two WNV RNA-positive samples (lineages 1 and 2), two TOSV RNA-positive samples (lineages A and B), one TBEV RNA-positive sample (Western subtype), one USUV RNA-positive sample and four negative samples. The EQA focused on overall capability rather than sensitivity of the used techniques. Only detection of one, clinically relevant, concentration per virus species and lineage was assessed.ResultsThe final EQA analysis included 51 laboratories from 35 countries; 44 of these laboratories were from 28 of 31 countries in the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA). USUV diagnostic capability was lowest (28 laboratories in 18 countries), WNV detection capacity was highest (48 laboratories in 32 countries). Twenty-five laboratories were able to test the whole EQA panel, of which only 11 provided completely correct results. The highest scores were observed for WNV and TOSV (92%), followed by TBEV (86%) and USUV (75%).ConclusionWe observed wide variety in extraction methods and RT-PCR tests, showing a profound absence of standardisation across European laboratories. Overall, the results were not satisfactory; capacity and capability need to be improved in 40 laboratories.

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Keywords arbovirus, central nervous system, diagnostic capacity, emerging, encephalitis, external quality assessment, Toscana virus, TOSV, Usutu, USUV, West Nile, WNV, tick-borne encephalitis, TBE, meningitis
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Journal Eurosurveillance
Reusken, C.B.E.M, Baronti, C. (Cecile), Mögling, R, Papa, A, Leitmeyer, K. (Katrin), & Charrel, R.N. (Remi N.). (2019). Toscana, West Nile, Usutu and tick-borne encephalitis viruses: external quality assessment for molecular detection of emerging neurotropic viruses in Europe, 2017. Eurosurveillance, 24(50). doi:10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2019.24.50.1900051