To support laboratories participating in WHO GSS an External Quality Assurance System (EQAS) was established in 2000. The EQAS supports the assessment of the quality of serotyping and antimicrobial susceptibility testing of Salmonella in participating laboratories. In 2003, the program was extended to include other foodborne pathogens as well, and the number of participants has increased from 44 laboratories in 2000, to 187 laboratories in 2008.
The serotyping results indicate a continuous need for improving skills in Salmonella serotyping. Future training efforts should be aimed at enhancing the capability to detect the flagella phases and disseminating protocols for preparing high quality swarm agar plates.
Harmonising the methodology and providing adequate guidelines for antimicrobial susceptibility testing is crucial for improving the results. Clearly, there is a need to disseminate the latest breakpoint guidelines, to strengthen awareness of performing and interpreting internal QC, as well as to identify the barriers for antimicrobial susceptibility testing in each individual laboratory. This year’s data also show that many of the laboratories were able to conduct a satisfactory confirmatory test on the ESBL producing strain. It is important to draw attention to this in the future as we have to recognise the increase of resistance to 3rd and 4th generation of cephalosporins.
Many of this year’s participants had difficulties identifying Campylobacter lari. These results indicate a need for additional training modules on identification procedures for Campylobacter spp. Given the growing concerns over increasing macrolide resistance in Campylobacter spp., participants in the 2009 EQAS will also be offered the opportunity to perform susceptibility testing of Campylobacter spp.