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PHSA Laboratories

BC Public Health Microbiology & Reference Laboratory

The BC Public Health Microbiology & Reference Laboratory is the primary public health and reference diagnostic testing facility for British Columbia. In addition to this role, the laboratory is also nationally recognized for its public health leadership, regularly conducting nationally funded research, and playing a leadership role in many areas including drinking water, molecular microbiology, influenza and health care acquired infections.

We have a provincial leadership role with close links to the Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network (CPHLN). All Programs in this laboratory are internationally accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP).

All clinical faculty members have teaching commitments, some at the leadership level, for undergraduates, graduates and post-graduates; members actively participate in the UBC medical microbiology residency training and as well compete for and obtain external grant funding.

Core Functions

International output benchmarks for all public health laboratories are captured by the Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network (CPHLN). The BC Public Health Microbiology & Reference Laboratory is responsible in British Columbia for these core functions:   

  1. Communicable disease surveillance prevention and control
  2. Outbreak and emergency response to communicable diseases
  3. Environmental health and food safety 
  4. Reference, specialized and diagnostic testing 
  5. Biosafety and Containment Level 3 programs 
  6. Integrated communicable disease data management 
  7. Public health policy development and evaluation 
  8. Laboratory improvement and regulation (Quality Assurance) 
  9. Training and education of health care and public health works 
  10. Public health related research
Synergy arising from Canadian provincial health laboratories working together is important. This is particularly critical in outbreaks that span 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 labs, and 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 microbiology laboratories across the province to ensure biological security and safety including maintaining 3 Health Canada certified Containment Level 3 facilities for handling biohazards. It leads provincial microbial biosecurity. The program also directs the transportation of biological samples for the safety of laboratory workers and residents of BC.

Environmental Microbiology Program

The Environmental Microbiology Program provides an integrated public health service that provides expert consultation and testing in the areas of food poisoning, food quality, drinking water, and recreational water or sewage analyses. Their work consists of testing and analyzing environmental and human samples to assist in the detection, investigation, surveillance and management of outbreaks of food and waterborne diseases.

Molecular Microbiology & Genomics Program

The Molecular Microbiology & Genomics Program supports the development, validation and implementation of molecular tests in collaboration with its partners in the other Programs in response to new or emerging pathogens as well as assessment of new technologies. Molecular Microbiology & Genomics staff also provide Quality Assurance and education for molecular testing to all public health programs.

Mycobacteriology/Tuberculosis (TB) Program

The Mycobacteriology/TB Laboratory Program provides diagnostic and reference testing services for TB and other mycobacteria in BC. This Program supports public health professionals province-wide as well as all activities of the BCCDC Division of TB Control by providing expertise and reference testing in mycobacteriology. Additional reference services are provided through links to national programs.

Parasitology Program

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 diagnostic services for identification of intestinal, blood and tissue parasites found in humans. This Program also carries out ectoparasite identification including vector identification for provincial West Nile virus surveillance programs.

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 services include Enteric Bacteriology, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Reference Bacteriology, Reference Mycology, Healthcare Associated Infections, and Containment Level 3 Pathogens.

Virology Program

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.


Grant-Supported Research

Our infrastructure and close ongoing collaborations with many public health colleagues across BC has facilitated grant support for research in:

  • Genomics
  • Microchip assays
  • Virus diagnostics Influenza programs
  • Health Care Acquired Infections (CDI, MRSA)
  • Mathematical modeling of microbial clinical and environmental agents
  • Fingerprinting and microbial genetic analyses
  • Enhanced surveillance for drinking water and food poisoning
  • West Nile virus surveillance
  • Lyme Disease and other zoonosis collaborations
  • HPV molecular assays and vaccine collaborations
Canadian public health laboratories such as the BC Public Health Microbiology & Reference Laboratory perform essential functions for patient care as well as at the population-level. This team also provides reference and diagnostic data for health care and public health workers.


Last Updated: April 19, 2013