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Microbiology reference and specialist laboratories

Published on 21 April 2022

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.

Lead clinician

NHS Lothian: Dr Ian Laurenson, Consultant Microbiologist (Director)

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde: Prof A Leanord, Consultant Microbiologist (Director)

NHS Highland: Dr Sally Mavin, Consultant Clinical Scientist (Director)


NHS Lothian

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
51 Little France Crescent
Old Dalkeith Road
EH16 4SA

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

5th Floor
New Lister Building
10-16 Alexandra Parade
Glasgow Royal Infirmary
G31 2ER

NHS Highland

Microbiology Department
Second floor, Zone 3
Raigmore Hospital
Old Perth Road

NSD contact

NSD Specialist Services

Please note that NSD does not directly provide medical services and we won't be able to answer queries about your own care or appointments. If you would like to discuss any aspects of your care, please contact your primary healthcare provider. This might be your GP, Consultant, Nurse or other healthcare professional. They will be best placed to give you the right advice.