Department of Diagnostics
THE DIAGNOSTIC SERVISES LABORATORY
The Diagnostic Services Laboratory provides a wide range of tests to outpatients and hospitalized patients for the diagnosis of infectious, autoimmune neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. Moreover, specimens from other clinical laboratories are received for confirmation of equivocal results and tests for the diagnosis of infectious diseases to companion animals are available.
The diagnostic tests are performed under strict conditions, according to international guidelines. Quality Assurance of the laboratory’s services includes participation in international External Quality Assessment schemes and accreditation according to EN ISO 15189:2012 for medical laboratories.
Infectious diseases diagnostics
For the diagnosis of bacterial, parasitic and viral pathogenic pathogens in humans and animals, established conventional methods such as cell culture, immunoenzymatic and immunofluorescent assays, as well as modern molecular methods such as real time PCR and gene sequence determination, are used. Our focus is on:
- congenital infections,
- respiratory infections,
- central nervous system infections
- infections caused by intracellular bacteria
- infections in patients after transplantation
Moreover, methods for the diagnosis of emerging infections caused by viruses such as West Nile Virus, coronavirus Mers-CoV, Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, Toscana and Ebola, have been developed in close collaboration with the National Reference Laboratories for viral infections of our Institute.
In response to the increasing emergence of resistance to antiviral agents, tests are available for the detection of resistance of viruses to these agents. Examples include: influenza virus resistance to neuraminidase inhibitors, cytomegalovirus resistance to synthetic nucleoside analogues and viral polymerase inhibitors and Hepatitis C resistance to NS3 protease and NS5 polymerase inhibitors.
Introduction of new technologies is a major priority in order to advance laboratory services. In recent years Next Generation Sequencing technologies have been incorporated in our activities and new bioinformatics algorithms are being developed for the diagnosis of infectious diseases and epidemic surveillance, in collaboration with the Applied Genomics and Bioinformatics Unit of our Institute.
Diagnosis of autoimmune neurological diseases (Neuro-immunology)
The detection of anti-AChR antibodies for Myasthenia Gravis was the first test to be developed and introduced in our Institute for the diagnosis of autoimmune neurological diseases. Today, a number of new tests have been developed and incorporated into our diagnostic panel for the diagnosis of autoimmune neurological diseases, which include tests for:
- the differential diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorders (NMOSD),
- neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Creutzfeldt–Jakob etc.),
- autoimmune neurological diseases (LEMS, Morvan Syndrome etc.),
- peripheral neuropathies (Guillain-Barré, Miller-Fisher, CIPD etc.) and
- autoimmune myopathies (polymyositis, dermatomyositis).
Recent studies on autoimmunity and the central nervous system revealed a wide range of extracellular and intracellular neuronal antigens as antibody targets and improved the diagnosis of autoimmune encephalitis and paraneoplastic disorders. New tests also help on the classification of clinical conditions such as epilepsy, dementia, psychiatric manifestations and others, which might be of autoimmune origin. Our lab is in close collaboration with research and international diagnostic laboratories in order to keep up with the constant advent of newly discovered neuronal antigens and follow a fast track adaptation to ensure quality and better diagnostic services.