Our Laboratories

Antibiotic Reference Laboratory

The Antibiotic Reference Laboratory is responsible for the national surveillance of antimicrobial resistance among human pathogens. Data from various surveillance systems and sources is used to compile national antimicrobial resistance data:

  • Antimicrobial susceptibility data generated from routine diagnostic antimicrobial susceptibility testing in hospital and community laboratories is collected and analysed.
  • Antimicrobial susceptibility among bacterial isolates referred to ESR for further investigation and epidemiological typing is monitored. Currently the susceptibility of invasive isolates of Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis and Haemophilus influenzae, and isolates of Salmonella is routinely monitored.
  • Periodic point-prevalence surveys of antimicrobial susceptibility among a specific organism, using a purpose-collected sample of isolates from throughout the country, are conducted. Currently this surveillance includes annual surveys of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae.
  • Important or emerging resistant bacteria are targeted for enhanced surveillance. For this surveillance, laboratories are requested to refer all isolates of the following resistant organisms:
    • β-lactamase-producing enterococci
    • Vancomycin-resistant enterococci
    • Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae, Pseudomonas species or Acinetobacter species
    • Multidrug-resistant organisms associated with outbreaks (following consultation with ESR)
    • Vancomycin-intermediate and resistant S. aureus
    • Other emerging resistances

Reports on the surveillance of antimicrobial resistance are available on the Public Health Surveillance website (external link)

The laboratory also provides a reference service for the confirmation and characterisation of antimicrobial resistance and identification of resistance determinants.

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Arbovirus Laboratory

The Arbovirus Laboratory provides screening for exposure to Zika virus, Dengue fever virus, Chikungunya virus, Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus and offers overseas referrals for vector borne diseases, pre-deployment testing for NZ Police, and information on vector borne diseases.

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Bloodborne Virus Laboratory

The Bloodborne Virus Laboratory provides confirmatory testing for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, and Molecular testing for Hepatitis B & C.  The laboratory provides data for AIDS Epidemiology Unit and advice on HIV screening assays.

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Enteric Reference Laboratory

The Enteric Reference Laboratory is responsible for the provision of national reference and surveillance laboratory services for human, animal and environmental enteric bacterial pathogens. The information received and generated supports the epidemiological surveillance of enteric organisms of public health significance.

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Environmental and Food Virology Laboratory

ESR’s Environmental and Food Virology team carry out research and provide scientific and technical advice on shellfish, water and food contamination from viruses. The Environmental and Food Virology Team has developed and validated methods to identify norovirus and other enteric viruses in foods and shellfish, and acquired an in-depth knowledge of enteric virus contamination of shellfish in the environment. ESR analyses environmental and food samples implicated in outbreaks for disease surveillance purposes. ESR disease surveillance helps public health agencies identify the cause and trace the source of gastrointestinal outbreaks linked to shellfish, water or food (see also Norovirus Reference Laboratory). ESR offers commercial analysis for the detection and identification of enteric viruses including norovirus, adenovirus, enterovirus, hepatitis A virus, hepatitis E virus and rotavirus in environmental and food samples. Samples that can be analysed include shellfish, sewage, biosolids, environmental waters, leafy salads, soft fruits and drinking water.

Find out more about the tests offered [PDF, 2.3 MB]

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Environmental Microbiology Laboratory

The Environmental Microbiology Laboratory offers testing of environmental samples for the presence of Legionella bacteria.  In conjunction with the Legionella Reference Laboratory (LRL), the tests include the isolation and identification of Legionella from a variety of environmental sources implicated in sporadic and outbreak cases of legionellosis. Testing for Legionella bacteria in environmental samples is required to confirm or exclude any implicated source when undertaking source tracing of each notified legionellosis case. The EML can also carry out monthly testing under the AS/NZS 3666 standard for the presence of Legionella on cooling tower waters. Monthly testing of cooling towers for Legionella is a compliance requirement for monitoring purposes under Section 7 of the Building Act 2004 (external link) . The EML holds IANZ accreditation under ISO17025 for the isolation of Legionella bacteria from environmental samples.

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Invasive Pathogens Laboratory

The Invasive Pathogens Laboratory incorporates the Meningococcal Reference Laboratory and the Streptococcal Reference Laboratory and provides reference typing services and surveillance of diseases caused by Haemophilus influenzae, Neisseria meningitidis, Group A streptococci (Streptococcus pyogenes), and Streptococcus pneumoniae. Referred isolates of Bordetella pertussis are stored pending new method development.

Useful links:

Reports are available on the Public Health Surveillance website (external link)

Ministry of Health Communicable Disease Control Manual 2012 (external link)  

Direct Laboratory Notification of Communicable Diseases: National Guidelines 2007 (external link)

Ministry of Health Immunisation Handbook 2014 (external link)

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Legionella Reference Laboratory

The Legionella Reference Laboratory offers a range of tests for the confirmation and speciation of legionellosis cases.  The tests include antibody detection serology, culture isolation from lower respiratory tract specimens, and molecular detection methods. For surveillance purposes, laboratories are requested to send all Legionella isolates for identification and, where necessary, molecular typing.

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Leptospira Reference Laboratory

The Leptospira Reference Laboratory provides screening and confirmatory tests for common Leptospira serovars found in New Zealand. The laboratory also provides Leptospira antigens to other laboratories in New Zealand performing the microscopic agglutination technique (MAT) tests. 

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Norovirus Reference Laboratory

The Norovirus Reference Laboratory provides detection and genotyping services for noroviruses associated with outbreaks of gastroenteritis. The laboratory tests clinical specimens from outbreaks and environmental and food samples implicated in outbreaks for disease surveillance purposes. New methods for norovirus detection and identification are evaluated. The surveillance of noroviruses involves genotyping by DNA sequencing with subsequent identification of strains through the international database, NoroNet (run by RIVM and Foodborne Virus Network, The Netherlands), correlation with epidemiological data, and publication of scientific reports and papers. The Laboratory staff provide advice on noroviruses and other enteric viruses, and on methodologies for identification.

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Nosocomial Infections Laboratory

The Nosocomial Infections Laboratory provides epidemiological typing services for hospital–acquired pathogens. The routine typing methods used in the laboratory include spa typing of Staphylococcus aureus, including methicillin-resistant S. aureus, and DNA macrorestriction analysis, using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), of a range of Gram-negative and Gram-positive organisms. Where appropriate other typing techniques, including multilocus-sequencing typing, multiple-locus variable tandem repeat analysis (MLVA), PCR-ribotyping of Clostridium difficile, and DNA microarrays are used.

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Special Bacteriology Laboratory

The Special Bacteriology Laboratory provides laboratory-based surveillance of diphtheria and listeriosis in New Zealand, and a reference identification service for aerobic non-enteric bacterial pathogens.

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For Mycology inquiries please contact the Mycology Reference Laboratory at LabPLUS (external link)

Clinical Virology Laboratory

The Virus Identification Reference Laboratory provides the WHO (external link) national influenza, polio and SARS reference laboratory services, the national reference laboratory services for enterovirus, adenovirus and arboviruses, and primary clinical diagnostic services for the Wellington region and the lower part of the North Island. The Virus Identification Reference Laboratory also provides advice and reports on the relevant viral disease incidence, outbreak investigation, strain analysis, influenza vaccine recommendation.