Patient Experience

Patient Experience

The National Irish Mycobacteria Reference Laboratory was established within St. James’s Hospital in 2001. Since its establishment, the IMRL has provided expertise to laboratories in the diagnosis of M. tuberculosis and other mycobacterial infections; by tracking circulating TB strains as part of continued surveillance and detecting the emergence of drug resistance. Furthermore, the laboratory participates in research and development initiatives both nationally and internationally.

The IMRL provides a specimen and culture referral service to clinical microbiology laboratories throughout the Republic of Ireland. Approximately 6,000 diagnostic specimens are processed annually, with the IMRL receiving approximately 500 mycobacterial cultures per annum for referral tests. These include identification, drug susceptibility testing and epidemiological strain typing using specialised molecular techniques.

The laboratory supports teaching and research and endeavours to keep informed of the most recent scientific, clinical and epidemiological trends in mycobacterial infections providing a cost effective and quality assured service. The laboratory is fully accredited to ISO15189:2012 standards.

  • National Services provided by the IMRL include

    • Use of diagnostic molecular tests to rapidly identify the presence of mycobacteria and screen for drug resistance in tuberculosis complex (MTBC) directly on specimens
    • Species identification of mycobacteria using molecular techniques
    • Drug susceptibility testing for WHO-defined Group A, B and C anti-mycobacterial drugs
    • Rapid molecular detection of MTBC and resistance to WHO-defined Group A,B and C anti-mycobacterial drugs from cultured isolates
      Assistance with isolation of mycobacteria in difficult cases
    • Molecular genotyping and comparison of M. tuberculosis complex strains using whole genome sequencing
    • Advice to clinicians and laboratories in relation to diagnosis, treatment and infection control of tuberculosis through the IMRL Medical Director
    • Genotypic DST for M. abscessus Complex
    • Referral of NTM isolates for drug susceptibility testing

    Services available by contract (Service Level Agreement) between requesting hospital and St James’s Hospital

    Processing of routine specimens (sputum, bronchoalveolar lavage samples, CSF, aspirates, fluids, tissue samples, blood, bone marrow, gastric aspirates) for mycobacterial investigations

  • Instructions for submitting specimens and for culture referral to the The Irish Mycobacteria Reference Laboratory (IMRL) are contained in the IMRL user manual

    The user manual contains information on
    • Request forms for specimens and culture referral
    • Labelling standards for specimens and cultures
    • Specimen and culture requirements
    • Packaging instructions and transport of specimens/cultures
    • Culture dispatch and fax form to be submitted prior to dispatch
    • Tests available and turnaround times

    IMRL User Manual v19

    IMRL Culture Referral Form

    IMRL Culture Dispatch Fax Form

    IMRL Specimen Request Form

  • Please read the LabMed user guide for instructions on the tests available, specimen requirements (type and volume), test availability and turnaround times.

  • The Irish Mycobacteria Reference Laboratory (IMRL) is currently accredited to ISO15189:2012 standards and the scope of accreditation can be view here.

    Schedule of accreditation

  • Instructions for submitting specimens to the The Irish Mycobacteria Reference Laboratory (IMRL) are contained in the IMRL User Manual v18 

    Information can also be found in the LabMed user guide

  • The Irish Mycobacteria Reference Laboratory (IMRL) has participated as a member of the European Reference Laboratory Network for Tuberculosis since its establishment in 2009. Three IMRL staff members have completed training as “European TB Laboratory Support Experts”.  

    The IMRL has participated in training workshops for epidemiological strain typing and whole genome sequence analysis for tracking TB strains across Europe.

  • In addition to services provided to users, the Irish Mycobacteria Reference Laboratory (IMRL) has a large repository of mycobacterial isolates. These isolates provide a unique opportunity for research and development to be performed thus promoting St James’s Hospital as a leader in TB diagnostics.

    The IMRL supports continuous education and translational research by collaborating with colleagues both nationally and internationally. Previous work has included projects on M. tuberculosis, M. bovis and non-tuberculous mycobacteria. Recent projects have included the use of whole genome sequencing for surveillance of M. tuberculosis both nationally and across Europe; for tracking M. abscessus complex strains circulating in Ireland and for providing insights into M. chimaera isolates identified from both clinical and environmental samples at the IMRL.

  • Advice on Clinical, Interpretation and Treatment

    Professor Breida Boyle (01) 4162971

    Professor Johannes Wagener (01) 8964551

    Professor Joseph Keane (01) 4103920

    Advice on scientific matters

    Dr Margaret Fitzgibbon, Chief Medical Scientist (01) 4162963

    Dr Emma Roycroft, Specialist Medical Scientist (01) 4151951

Contact Details

Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm

How to find us

Second floor, Molecular Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Building

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