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In 2012, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) initiated external quality assessment (EQA) schemes for molecular typing including the National Public Health Reference Laboratories in Europe. The overall aim for these EQA schemes was to enhance the European surveillance of food-borne pathogens by evaluating and improving the quality and comparability of molecular typing. The EQAs were organised by Statens Serum Institut (SSI) and included subsp. enterica, verocytotoxin-producing (VTEC) and . Inter-laboratory comparable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) images were obtained from 10 of 17 of the participating laboratories for , 15 of 25 for , but only nine of 20 for VTEC. Most problems were related to PFGE running conditions and/or incorrect use of image acquisition. Analysis of the gels was done in good accordance with the provided guidelines. Furthermore, we assessed the multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) scheme for Typhimurium. Of 15 laboratories, nine submitted correct results for all analysed strains, and four had difficulties with one strain only. In conclusion, both PFGE and MLVA are prone to variation in quality, and there is therefore a continuous need for standardisation and validation of laboratory performance for molecular typing methods of food-borne pathogens in the human public health sector.


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