Skip to main content
hpa logo
Topics A-Z:
Search the site:

Immunisation & Diagnosis Unit (IDU)

Tel: 020 8327 6017
Fax: 020 8205 8195

Unit Head: Dr Kevin E Brown
Tel: 020 327 6023

Technical Manager: Heather Lawson
Tel: 020 327 6253

The Immunisation and Diagnosis Unit (IDU) is one of ten units within the Virus Reference Department (VRD). It provides diagnostic and reference services for measles, mumps, rubella, polyomavirus (BK and JC), parvovirus B19 (B19V), varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and HHV6, and in collaboration with the Immunisation Department is responsible for the enhanced laboratory surveillance for measles, mumps and rubella infection in the UK.

IDU is a national and international reference centre for rash associated viral infections and the unit receives clinical samples and virus isolates from HPA, National Health Service and commercial laboratories across the UK and from overseas. The services offered by IDU include antibody testing, PCR, genotyping and virus culture as shown in the VRD User Manual VRD User Manual (PDF, 489 KB).

IDU is one of three WHO Global Specialized laboratories for Measles and Rubella (the other two are located in the USA and Japan). As such, it is responsible for the following services to laboratories within the global network:

  • provision of technical advice and specialised training to regional and national laboratories
  • provision of laboratory standards, training materials and quality control panels of sera and viruses
  • organisation of periodic proficiency testing for regional laboratories
  • evaluation and improvement of diagnostic kits and methods
  • maintenance of the Measles and Rubella Virus reference strain bank
  • provision of viral sequencing and analysis on request

The expertise developed in IDU through the provision of these services supports an applied research and development programme A major role of the laboratory was the development, validation and implementation of oral fluid testing for measles, mumps and rubella surveillance and diagnosis, in the UK. Testing of samples obtained by this non-invasive method, both for antibody detection by an ELISA technique and for characterisation of the viral genome by RT-PCR has greatly enhanced measles, mumps and rubella surveillance in the UK, and has been evaluated by other countries and WHO for wider adoption. Oral fluid testing has been invaluable in tracking recent changes in measles epidemiology following the drop in MMR vaccine uptake in the UK due to unfounded doubts about vaccine safety.