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Microbiology reference and specialist laboratories

Published on 07 February 2024

The Scottish Microbiology Reference and Specialist Laboratories provide support to guide public health responses to communicable (infectious) disease.

Each of the laboratories maintains an archive of samples and contributes to research, quality assurance, audit and teaching. The laboratories also offer an analytical and advisory service to NHS boards and Public Health Scotland (PHS). The latter collects epidemiological data for public health purposes.

When are the laboratories needed?

Local laboratories carry out front line diagnostic testing, which informs clinical management of individual patients. A microbiology reference laboratory is necessary for pathogens of importance to public health. It provides second line data on an identified organism.

A specialist microbiological service is required when a test result is needed for a patient diagnosis that is rare. Diagnoses that require complex, expensive equipment or specialist training to perform also use the service. In these cases, it is usually not cost-effective for individual laboratories to establish a service.

Commissioning of 13 microbiology reference and specialist laboratories currently takes place in Scotland. These are in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness:

NHS Lothian:

  • Scottish Mycobacteria Reference Laboratory (SMRL)
  • Scottish National Viral Haemorrhagic Fever Test Service (SNVTS)
  • Scottish E. coli O157/VTEC Reference Laboratory (SERL)
  • Scottish HPV Reference Laboratory (SHPVRL)
  • Scottish Bacterial Sexually Transmitted Infections Reference Laboratory (SBSTIRL)

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde:

  • Scottish Parasite Diagnostic & Reference Laboratory (SPDRL)
  • Scottish Salmonella, Shigella and Clostridium difficile Reference Laboratory (SSSCdRL)
  • Scottish Haemophilius, Legionella, Menongococcus and Pneumococcus Reference Laboratory (SHLMPRL)
  • Scottish MRSA Reference Laboratory (SMRSARL)
  • Anti Microbial Resistance Reference Laboratory (AMRRL)

NHS Highland:

  • Scottish Toxoplasma Reference Laboratory (STRL)
  • Scottish Lyme Disease and Tick-borne Infections Reference Laboratory (SLDTRL)

Specialist laboratories:

  • The NHS Blood-Borne Virus Specialist Testing Service (BBV) is provided jointly between NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lothian.

Find further information about the Scottish Microbiology Reference and Specialist Laboratories service on the Public Health Scotland website.