Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) is known around the world for its scientific excellence in the field of infectious diseases. We work with provincial, national and international public health partners.
Our main functions are:
- laboratory-based surveillance to:
- monitor infectious disease trends
- detect and investigate infectious diseases
- highly specialized reference laboratory services to detect diseases that are difficult to identify or diagnose
- applied and discovery research to develop:
- support for clinical decision-making
- experimental vaccines and treatments
- advanced testing and diagnostic methods
- guidance and support for:
- public health programs
- risk assessment, preparedness and intervention
- national and international leadership, networking and capacity development
- emergency preparedness and outbreak response
On this page
Divisions within the NML
Our divisions are made up of highly specialized scientists and technicians who provide expertise in a number of different fields.
Bacterial Pathogens Division
The Bacterial Pathogens Division is a national leader in monitoring bacterial diseases.
We work mainly on:
- diagnostic testing services
- lab responses for human bacterial threats such as:
- antimicrobial resistant organisms
- vaccine preventable bacterial diseases
- rare and emerging bacterial organisms
- tuberculosis and non-tuberculous mycobacteria
- bacterial sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea
- biological security responses to potential acts of bio- terrorism
We respond to emergency and public health responses in relation to:
- antibiotic therapy
- biological security
- outbreak detection and investigation
Enteric Diseases Division
The Enteric Diseases Division coordinates national diagnostic and testing services for client labs, in cases of food and water-borne illness. Our main focus is food-borne disease:
- tracking and monitoring
- outbreak detection and response
- testing, which is offered to all provincial public health laboratories to diagnose illnesses such as:
We also add to Canadians’ knowledge about activities further along in the food safety system. For example, we provide guidance, such as the measures needed to promote food safety and protect against future outbreaks.
In addition, we:
- perform specialized testing for other public health labs and provide disease surveillance support
- determine and assess broad public health risks and their sources
- research and develop laboratory tools and techniques using advanced genomics and bioinformatics
Viral Diseases Division
The Viral Diseases Division performs specialized testing for viral diseases such as:
- influenza and respiratory viruses
- enteroviruses and enteric viruses
- viral sexually-transmitted diseases
- blood-borne pathogens and hepatitis
- exanthemata (skin rashes caused by fever or disease such as measles, mumps, and rubella)
We have 3 laboratory centres accredited by the World Health Organization (WHO) to deal with particular viral diseases of international concern. These laboratory centres are the:
We also isolate and describe new or unknown virus infections. This work includes a laboratory testing service for Canadian and other international laboratories. This service is for diagnosis or description of unusual or difficult patient specimens or isolates of infectious agents.
In addition, we monitor drug-resistant strains of viruses. We carry out surveillance on vaccine effectiveness and immune breakthroughs. This work leads to:
- improved diagnostic tests
- an understanding of the origin and development of viruses
One of our main roles is to measure the number and impact of viral infections in Canada. This provides information that supports the most effective and best use of vaccines and other public health work to control viral infections.
Zoonotic Diseases and Special Pathogens
This division tracks, diagnoses and controls zoonotic and other rare or emerging pathogens. Our scientists work inside Canada's only:
- Containment Level 3 insectary
- Containment Level 4 laboratory for human testing and research
Zoonotic diseases are diseases that spread between animals and people. Vectors can include ticks, mosquitos or mammals that can transmit diseases such as:
The Zoonotic Diseases Division developed and operates the National West Nile Virus Surveillance System. This system is adaptable for use with other emerging mosquito-borne infectious diseases, such as Zika virus associated illnesses.
Special Pathogens include zoonotic agents that are:
- highly infectious
- associated with severe disease in humans
Such pathogens include the viruses that cause several hemorrhagic fevers and other recently identified and emerging viral diseases such as:
The scientists in this division work with a range of diseases that include rare and emerging pathogens that may:
- be transmitted naturally
- result from a bioterrorism event
National HIV and Retrovirology Laboratories
These labs offer a complete range of lab services and scientific expertise related to HIV and HIV co-infections such as viral hepatitis and emerging retroviruses.
The HIV lab:
- provides national laboratory testing for HIV and Human T-Lymphotrophic Virus (HTLV)
- provides quality assurance for HIV diagnostics and lab tests in Canada and around the world
- supports surveillance of HIV/HTLV and some co-infections, such as Hepatitis B and C
- supports surveillance of HIV transmission and drug resistance
- builds public health capacity through knowledge and development of new tools for diagnosis for HIV testing
- trains and educates health care and public health workers on diagnosing HIV
- helps to develop improvements in HIV care and treatment in regions most affected by the HIV pandemic, such as sub-Saharan Africa
Public Health Risk Sciences Division
The Public Health Risk Sciences Division works to prevent and control infectious diseases that arise from contact between humans and animals. This includes diseases within the food chain and the environment.
- performs epidemiological studies to identify public health risk factors
- develops risk models and decision analysis tools to understand and reduce public health risks
- develops public health geomatics (geographical information) tools and services to strengthen:
- decision making
- emergency response programs
These activities support programs in public health surveillance, research and outbreak management.
Science Technology Cores and Services
Our main role is to translate global scientific progress into better public health response and preparedness. We provide a strong, centralized technical infrastructure and resources to:
- respond to public health events
- translate applied research into public health deliverables
Our members are leaders in fields such as:
- capacity building
- advanced molecular-based technologies
We use advanced investigative methods and highly technical / multidisciplinary approaches to work in the areas of:
- genomics (DNA sequencing / genotyping / molecular-based analyses)
- mass spectrometry and proteomics (protein identification and proteome characterization)
- bioinformatics (computer analysis of DNA and protein sequence information)
- molecular pathobiology (diagnostic pathology in tissues and animal models)
Our other specialties include:
- Veterinary Technical Services
- Applied Biosafety Research (containment and decontamination methods)
Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network
This national network of public health laboratory professionals provides a forum for public health laboratory leaders to share knowledge and standardize laboratory activities.
It is home to a variety of networks and working groups that expedite:
- response plans
The Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network (CPHLN) champions rapid, coordinated nationwide laboratory response to emerging and re-emerging communicable diseases, such as SARS and pandemic influenza.
For more information please read the CPHLN Strategic Plan 2016-2020.
Canadian Network for Public Health Intelligence
The Canadian Network for Public Health Intelligence (CNPHI) is a secure, web-based scientific informatics and biosurveillance platform. It allows public health professionals to gather and share strategic information.
The goal behind the CNPHI platform is to reduce human illness by bringing together public health information, resources and expertise quickly, in real-time:
This allows better coordination of public health responses.
CNPHI works well in situations of any scale. It offers additional tools for rapid data collection that can be used to respond to public health events.
To date, CNPHI has successfully piloted:
- an alerting system for the whole of Canada
- resource centres for both domestic and international groups to collaborate
- laboratory-based surveillance systems for both human and animal health
- a pilot syndromic surveillance system to monitor infectious diseases
NML locations across Canada
We have a number of different sites across the country:
Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health
1015 Arlington Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
JC Wilt Infectious Diseases Research Centre
745 Logan Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
National Microbiology Laboratory at Guelph
110 Stone Road West, Guelph, ON
National Microbiology Laboratory at St. Hyacinthe
University of Montreal Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
3200 rue Sicotte, C.P. 5000
St. Hyacinthe, QC
National Microbiology Laboratory at Lethbridge
Township Road 9-1. Lethbridge AB T1J 3Z4