International output benchmarks for all public health laboratories are captured by international baseline standards. The BC Public Health Microbiology & Reference Laboratory is responsible to carry out these core functions:
- Communicable disease surveillance prevention and control
- Outbreak and emergency response to communicable diseases
- Environmental health and food safety
- Reference, specialized and diagnostic testing
- Biosafety and Containment Level 3 programs
- Integrated communicable disease data management
- Public health policy development and evaluation
- Laboratory improvement and regulation (Quality Assurance)
- Training and education of health care and public health works
- Public health related research
Current strategic directions are: 1) to build capacity for transforming laboratory data to useful health information, and 2) to strengthen our province-wide collaborative laboratory network for public health.
Synergy from BC-wide and Canada-wide laboratories working together is important. This is particularly critical in outbreaks that span health authorities and provinces (e.g. foodborne disease). BC Public Health Microbiology & Reference Laboratory also is actively engaged in promoting our synergy with the BC Public Health Laboratory Network (BCPHLN), BC partners in private and public laboratories, as well as the CPHLN.
Programs & Services
- Laboratory Surveillance, Outbreak and Control Services
- Technical Support Services
- Quality Management
- Integrated Data Management Team
Biosafety Biosecurity Biohazard Containment (BBBC) Program
The Biosafety Biohazard Biosecurity Containment Program assists all staff to ensure biological security and safety including maintaining 3 Health Canada certified Containment Level 3 facilities for handling high risk pathogens. It leads provincial microbial biosecurity. The program also directs the transportation of biological samples for the safety of laboratory workers and residents of BC through the nationally contracted BC Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP) Team.
Environmental Microbiology Program
The Environmental Microbiology Program provides an integrated public health service providing expert consultation and testing in the areas of food poisoning, including botulism testing, food quality, drinking water, and recreational water or sewage analyses. Their work consists of analyzing environmental and human samples to assist in the detection, investigation, surveillance and management of outbreaks of food and waterborne diseases. It is a member of the Canadian Laboratory Response Network for bioterrorism response.
Molecular Microbiology & Genomics Program
The Molecular Microbiology & Genomics Program supports the development, validation and implementation of molecular and microbial genomic-based assays in collaboration with its partners in the other Programs and in response to new or emerging pathogens. Molecular Microbiology & Genomics staff also provide training, assist in standardized information management, Quality Assurance and education to the other public health programs.
Mycobacteriology/Tuberculosis (TB) Program
The Mycobacteriology/TB Laboratory Program provides diagnostic and reference testing services for TB and other mycobacteria. This Program supports public health professionals province-wide as well as all activities of the BCCDC Division of TB Control by its expertise. Additional services are provided through links to national programs.
The Parasitology Program supports public health programs across BC by detecting and investigating outbreaks of parasitic diseases. Expert medical and technical staff also provide reference services for identification of intestinal, blood and tissue parasites, carries out ectoparasite identification for disease vectors, including the provincial West Nile virus program.
Public Health Advanced Bacteriology/Mycology Program
Providing consultations to physicians and working closely with public health officials in outbreak investigations and surveillance, the Bacteriology & Mycology Program includes Enteric Bacteriology, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Reference Bacteriology, Reference Mycology, Healthcare Associated Infections, and Containment Level 3 Pathogens. It is a member of the Canadian Laboratory Response Network for bioterrorism response.
The Virology Program experts carry out diagnostic and reference testing for patient management. For virology outbreaks it leads laboratory investigations working closely with public health workers province-wide with links nationally. Experts in this Program lead influenza and other respiratory virus surveillance work with the Sentinel Physicians Surveillance Network and other public health partners.
Zoonotic Diseases & Emerging Pathogens (ZEP) Program
The Zoonotic Diseases and Emerging Pathogens Program carries out specialized serology and cell mediated immune response testing (Interferon-Gamma Release Assays, IGRA, for latent TB) as well as detection of antigens or antibodies to bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic agents of public health importance such as Treponema pallidum, Helicobacter pylori, Borrelia burgdorferi, and Toxoplasma gondii. The program works closely with the national reference laboratory and is recognized nationally for its work on Lyme disease and other spirochetal agents.
Our ongoing collaborations with many public health colleagues across BC has facilitated grant support for research in:
- Microbial Genomics and Bioinformatics Pipelines
- Microbial Genomics Health Care Acquired Infections (CDI, MRSA)
- Fingerprinting and microbial genomic analyses
- Metagenomics of the watershed and sources
- Water Genomics
- West Nile virus surveillance
- Lyme Disease and other zoonosis collaborations
- HPV molecular assays and vaccine collaborations