Proficiency of WHO Global Foodborne Infections Network External Quality Assurance System Participants in Identification and Susceptibility Testing of Thermotolerant Campylobacter spp. from 2003 to 2012

Pedersen, Susanne Karlsmose; Wagenaar, Jaap A.; Vigre, Håkan; Roer, Louise; Mikoleit, Matthew; Aidara-Kane, Awa; Cawthorne, Amy L.; Aarestrup, Frank M.; Hendriksen, Rene S.


Campylobacter spp. are foodborne and waterborne pathogens. While rather accurate estimates for these pathogens are available in industrialized countries, a lack of diagnostic capacity in developing countries limits accurate assessments of prevalence in many regions. Proficiency in the identification and susceptibility testing of these organisms is critical for surveillance and control efforts. The aim of the study was to assess performance for identification and susceptibility testing of thermotolerant Campylobacter spp. among laboratories participating in the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Foodborne Infections Network (GFN) External Quality Assurance System (EQAS) over a 9-year period. Participants (primarily national-level laboratories) were encouraged to self-evaluate their performance as part of continuous quality improvement. The ability to correctly identify Campylobacter spp. varied by year and ranged from 61.9% (2008) to 90.7% (2012), and the ability to correctly perform antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) for Campylobacter spp. appeared to steadily increase from 91.4% to 93.6% in the test period (2009 to 2012). The poorest performance (60.0% correct identification and 86.8% correct AST results) was observed in African laboratories. Overall, approximately 10% of laboratories reported either an incorrect identification or antibiogram. As most participants were supranational reference laboratories, these data raise significant concerns regarding capacity and proficiency at the local clinical level. Addressing these diagnostic challenges is critical for both patient-level management and broader surveillance and control efforts.