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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2008 Jun 20;57(24):657-60.

Recommendations from an ad hoc Meeting of the WHO Measles and Rubella Laboratory Network (LabNet) on use of alternative diagnostic samples for measles and rubella surveillance.


Laboratory confirmation of measles and rubella is an important component of disease surveillance in all settings. Because the use of clinical diagnosis for surveillance is unreliable, case-based laboratory confirmation of disease is critically important in settings with measles or rubella elimination goals. The World Health Organization (WHO) Measles and Rubella Laboratory Network (LabNet) was established in 2000 to provide a standardized testing and reporting structure and a comprehensive, external quality-assurance program. LabNet currently consists of 679 laboratories serving 166 countries. However, measles and rubella surveillance remains incomplete in certain areas because of difficulties with the collection and transport of serum specimens. Recently, LabNet evaluated two alternative sampling approaches to serum samples, the use of dried blood spots (DBS) and oral fluid (OF) samples. Both of these approaches have potential to be useful tools for measles and rubella control programs. In June 2007, WHO convened an ad hoc meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to review available data and provide recommendations on use of DBS and OF samples for measles and rubella diagnostics. Attendees included LabNet staff members and scientists who had been conducting studies to evaluate use of these alternative diagnostic samples. The attendees concluded that 1) although serum-based diagnostics remain the "gold standard," the use of these two alternative sampling techniques would not adversely affect routine measles and rubella surveillance and might enhance surveillance; 2) regions in the elimination phase that already have established serum-based testing for rash illness surveillance would not likely benefit from converting to DBS or OF sampling methods, except in special circumstances; and 3) DBS or OF sampling are viable options for measles and rubella surveillance in all regions, especially where patients might resist venipuncture for blood collection, or where special challenges exist with transport or refrigeration of diagnostic samples.

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