National Influenza Reference Laboratory for Southern Greece (Recognized by WHO)

Director:  A.F. Mentis, MD
Tel +30-210-6478816




The NILSG was established in 1978 by decree of the Hellenic Ministry of Health and Welfare and the World Health Organisation (WHO). The NILSG is part of the WHO worldwide influenza surveillance network.

 The tasks of the NILSG involve the timely detection, isolation, characterization and typing of influenza viruses from clinical samples collected in Southern Greece during the winter influenza surveillance periods or during pandemics. For this purpose the NIRL Southern Greece is working in close collaboration with the Hellenic Centre for Infectious Diseases Control (HCIDC) on the influenza surveillance project. Representative clinical samples from Influenza-Like-Illness (ILI) cases in Southern Greece, collected by Sentinel GPs weekly during the winter influenza surveillance period, are sent to the NIRLSG (Sentinel specimens). Clinical samples are also obtained from patients in intensive care units and other hospitalized patients (Non-sentinel specimens). The results of the laboratory surveillance are weekly communicated to WHO,  ECDC, the Greek Ministry of Health and the HCDCP. Representative newly isolated viruses are shipped to WHO CC, London for advanced antigenic and genetic analysis.

The following methods are available for the laboratory surveillance of seasonal and pandemic influenza viruses (Table 1), as well as of other respiratory viruses (Table 2)

To view or download Table 1 in PDF format click here


To view or download Table 2 in PDF format click here





During the period 2005-2011 more than 24.000 specimens were tested for the presence of influenza viruses. A representative sample of the detected viruses was isolated in cell culture, further analyzed by antigenic and genetic characterization and tested for susceptibility to neuraminidase inhibitors. Viruses with specific characteristics were sent to the WHO Collaborating Centre for Influenza (Health Protection Agency, London, UK). The number of specimens tested, the number of positive specimens, and the types and subtypes of influenza viruses detected during the period 2005-10, are summarised in Table 3. Moreover, more than 3000 specimens collected during the winter periods of the years 2006-2008 from patients with symptoms of acute respiratory infection were screened for the following, apart from influenza, respiratory viruses: rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, bocavirus, parainfluenza virus, metapneumovirus, and coronavirus.

Seasonal influenza type A viruses prevailed the winter periods 2006-7 and 2007-8, with influenza type B virus co-circulating, although in a lower proportion.  Influenza B viruses predominated over influenza A in the periods 2005-6 and 2008-9. Overall, influenza A viruses that circulated were antigenically close to the vaccine strains of each year. Although both influenza B sublineages B/Victoria and B/Yamagata were co-circulating, only a small number of B/Victoria viruses was observed. Finally, an absolute perdominance of the pandemic A(H1N1)-2009 virus was observed from May 2009 to May 2010.

To view or download Table 3 in PDF format click here




Accreditation and Quality Assurance Schemes for the laboratory surveillance of influenza virus and other respiratory viruses  

The laboratory has participated in the following Quality Assurance programs. By these programmes, the proficiency of the laboratory in detecting, isolatingand typing influenza viruses is assessed.

  • WHO External Quality Assessment Programmes  organized by the Public Health Laboratory Centre of Hong Kong (WHO EQAP)
  • External Quality Assessment Programs organized by the Quality Control for Molecular Diagnostics (QCMD) Institute, Scotland, UK
  • European Influenza Laboratory Network.

 The laboratory has also participated in proficiency programs organised by the Quality Control for Molecular Diagnostics (QCMD) Organiaztion for respiratory viruses other than influenza.

 The in house method “RNA detection of influenza viruses A and B” of the National Influenza Reference Laboratory has been accredited by the Hellenic Accreditation System SA (ESYD), according to EN ISO 15189:2007Medical laboratories: Particular requirements for quality and competence (certificate number 623,), valid until 28.10.2013.