As one of the nation’s emergency response systems, the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) is known for detecting and responding to all types of health threats. Its mission is to maintain an integrated network of laboratories that can respond to bioterrorism, emerging infectious diseases, chemical terrorism and other public health emergencies. During an emergency, one of the LRN’s most critical functions is ensuring that US laboratories have the right test at the right time.
When a public health threat emerges, one of the first tasks of public health systems is to make sure that laboratories are able to test for the causative agent, whether biological, chemical or radiological. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quickly works with these laboratories and other partners to get the tests in place using equipment found in LRN reference laboratories. For instance in 2014, CDC partnered with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the LRN deployed a test for Ebola. The network rolled out training and other programs to ensure quality testing and reporting. This approach ensured laboratories such as the Texas Department of State Health Services Laboratory was ready to test for Ebola before it struck. Similarly, CDC quickly worked with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to secure an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) assay for Zika and again deployed the test via the LRN to laboratories across the country. Where training was needed, CDC partnered with APHL to deliver these skills to public health laboratory scientists. Whatever the testing needs may be, the LRN jumps into action to ensure testing capabilities are in place for an effective response.
So what exactly does the LRN do to support and expedite development and deployment of such tests? The LRN:
- Collaborates with the specialized laboratory developing the test. This may be a laboratory at a government agency, such as CDC or DoD, or a private entity.
- Optimizes the test to ensure it provides reliable results, operates on instrumentation available nationwide and integrates with systems for reporting of test results.
- Prepares and submits a request to the FDA for use of the test on an emergency basis. This Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) details test detection limitations, reagents, instruments, authorized users and other technical information.
- Issues proficiency tests to assure laboratory scientists across the network are capable of properly performing the tests and generating accurate results.
- Quickly deploys the test to LRN laboratories with the capability to test for the agent.
- Provides a mechanism for standardized electronic data exchange of test results.
- Facilitates communications across partners such as APHL, DoD, FBI and other stakeholder.
Here are examples of public health emergences where the LRN made sure the proper test was at the proper laboratory just in time to initiate the response:
- MERS-CoV: Why We Are Not Panicking
- In US, Massive Effort to Detect and Respond to Ebola Already Underway
- September 30, 2014: As Ebola Arrived, the Texas Public Health Lab was Ready
- Responding to the Animas River disaster: Who’s testing what?
- Inside the public health lab Zika response: ‘It’s the great unknown as to how much longer this will go on’
- System Built for Responding to Bioterrorism Confirms Plague in Colorado Girl
As a founding partner, APHL recognizes the value of the LRN and celebrates its accomplishments across the last 20 years. The LRN, via funding from CDC’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement, provides a warm base for public health laboratories, positioning them to respond to all threats including the 2009 pandemic influenza and the recent opioid epidemic. Though many Americans have never heard of the LRN, the Network is nonetheless there, keeping us safe from threats known and unknown.
For more information about the Laboratory Response Network, visit CDC’s “The Laboratory Response Network Partners in Preparedness” webpage.
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