European Union Reference Laboratory VTEC


European Union Reference Laboratory for Escherichia coli, including Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (EURL-VTEC)

Welcome to the official website of the European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for Escherichia coli, including Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (EURL-VTEC), hosted by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità. The EURL-VTEC website is a mean to disseminate information to the National Reference Laboratories (NRLs) for E. coli network but is also meant to be a source of references to the laboratories dealing with pathogenic E. coli detection and control worldwide. Lastly, this website serves as a portal for the access to the services offered by EURL-VTEC . 

The Istituto Superiore di Sanità was designated as Reference Laboratory for STEC by the European Commission on July the 1st, 2006 (Commission Regulation 776/2006). 

The EURL-VTEC mainly focuses its activity on STEC and other pathogenic E. coli infections that have either a foodborne or a zoonotic origin. Starting from 2019, the role of Reference Laboratory for the tasks related with the presence and enumeration of E. coli in Live Bivalve Molluscs was appointed to the EURL-VTEC, following the closure of the European Union reference laboratory for monitoring the viral and bacteriological contamination of bivalve molluscs in the UK due to the BREXIT. This transfer is ratified with the EU Regulation 222/2018

The EURL-VTEC is integrated into the Unit of Foodborne diseases, which has been accredited as part of the Food safety, nutrition and Veterinary Public Health Department since December 2007 by ACCREDIA, the Italian accreditation body, according to the ISO/IEC 17025 international standard. The accreditation (certificate No. 0779 L) refers both to fixed and flexible scope of accreditation (list of accredited tests available in Italian at Complete schedule of accreditation of ACCREDIA) and certifies the technical competence of the laboratory to perform specific analytical methods. 



The general functions and duties of the EURLs for feed and food are described in Article 94 of Regulation (EC) No. 625/2017

These include: 

- Co-operation with the European Commission, the NRLs and other International Organisations: 

The EURL-VTEC coordinates the network of the NRLs for E. coli in the EU and in third countries by providing update on new methods developed or validated, training, methodological guidelines, scientific update and esternal quality assessment through the organization of proficiency tests, related with the detection,  characterization and typing of pathogenic E. coli.

In its central role of technical and scientific coordination at the EU level on the E. coli subject matter, the EURL VTEC provides scientific and techincal support to the European Commission and cooperates with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), World Health Organisation (WHO), and with the agencies European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, as well as with the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). 

- Methods of laboratory analysis, testing or diagnosis, including reference methods 

The competences of the EURL-VTEC are translated into the development of analytical methods for the detection, identification and typing of STEC and other pathogenic E. coli in animals, food and in other relevant matrices. Other aplications in the field include the development and validation of serological methods to detect serogroup-specific antibodies in human sera with STEC infections and for the sub-typing of STEC strains by using molecular methods. 

- Production and collection of reference materials  

The EURL-VTEC develops and maintain a collection of reference materials including reference strains for the different E. coli pathotroups, PCR targets, reference genomes and antigens to be used in serological assays. 

- Organisation of proficiency tests and ring trials  (external quality assessment –EQA) 

Proficiency tests and ring trials on detection and typing methods constitute a central activity in the EURL work programme. The EQA is dedicated to the designated NRLs for E. coli and the EU Candidate Countries but it is also open for participation to reference laboratories for E. coli in third countries. A full evaluation report of each EQA round is prepared and distributed to the participants. 

- Collaboration with laboratories responsible for E. coli infections in third countries  

Beside the participaton to the EURL-VTEC EQA program, training courses and stages at the EURL-VTEC are organised to provide support to reference laboratories for E. coli in third countries on detection and typing methods. The support offered includes the porvision of reference materials and the implementation of monitoring programmes and epidemiological surveys in collaboration with local institutions upon request. 

- Technical and scientific support to the Commission and the local authorities in EU Member States  

The personnel of the EURL-VTEC can support Member States for the diagnosis of E. coli infections upon request.  Also, on specific request, the personnel of EURL-VTEC is available to support local authorities in EU Member States on field studies to face epidemic outbreaks caused by any pathogenic E. coli


EURL Services

The EU Regulation 625/2017, updating the EU regulation 882/2004, includes the principles for the designation of the reference Laboratories, including the EURL, and breakdown the activities to be undertaken in order to contribute to a high quality and uniformity of analytical results amongst the NRLs of the Member States in the Union. Following the scheme introduced by these regulations, the EURL for E. coli (EURL-VTEC) tasks include the production/validation of analytical methods, organization of comparative testing schemes and advice to the Commission and the NRLs from EU member states and third countries. Moreover, EURL-VTEC provides specific services related with the application of the analytical methods and the organisation of proficiency testing scheme, such as delivery of training, production and provision of certified reference materials and reference strains, preparation and shipment of certified samples for quality assessment for methods' validation and specific training programs. Such services may be required by compiling an online request through specific forms at the following link.  

Request a training stage or course 

Request the provision of reference materials 

To request the preparation and shipment of certified reference sample, please send an enquiry by E-mail to motivating your request and providing all the relevant background information. 

Data security and privacy are our main concerns. The information provided will be treated according to the EU Regulation 679/2016

Archive of the official website of the European Union Reference Laboratory (EU-RL) for Escherichia coli from previous ISS'web site can be found at