Charité Virology is a reference laboratory in the WHO Coronavirus Network CoViNet - Global network of reference laboratories aims to detect and monitor coronaviruses

The World Health Organization (WHO) has selected the Institute of Virology at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin as a member of the newly established WHO Coronavirus Network (CoViNet). The global network of reference laboratories aims to detect and monitor coronaviruses at an early stage in order to support the development of WHO public health strategies. The Institute of Virology is one of eleven laboratories in Europe that contribute their expertise to analyze SARS-CoV-2, the MERS coronavirus, and emerging coronaviruses.


The CoViNet network replaces the "WHO SARS-CoV-2 Reference Laboratory Network", which was established by the WHO at the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020 with the initial objective to provide confirmatory testing to countries with no or little testing capacity. As a member of this network, the Institute of Virology supported the genetic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 variants in more than 20 countries.

In order to be able to monitor not only SARS-CoV-2 but also other coronaviruses in the future, the WHO has now expanded the scope and objectives of the reference laboratories. They will additionally monitor the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which is transmitted from dromedaries to humans and can cause severe respiratory infections in some cases. Further, they are to enhance capacities for the identification of novel coronaviruses. Worldwide, 33 laboratories have been selected by the WHO as founding members of the CoViNet network.

The responsibilities of the reference laboratories include both the surveillance of the viruses and their variants as well as the assessment of their characteristics. Monitoring will no longer be limited to viruses circulating in humans, but will increasingly be extended to animals and the environment.

The data collected by the CoViNet network will support the work of various WHO committees in assessing risks, deriving public health measures, and developing recommendations for the composition of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Institute of Virology will also collaborate with the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin, of which Charité is a founding partner.

The Institute of Virology, headed by Prof. Christian Drosten, has served as National Consultant Laboratory for coronaviruses since 2013, initially at the University Hospital Bonn and from 2017 at Charité, and in this role offers diagnostics and specialist advice on this virus family throughout Germany. Consultant laboratories are appointed by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). At the beginning of 2023, the RKI expanded the Consultant Laboratory for coronaviruses to a National Reference Center and once again appointed Charité’s Institute of Virology to this role. The institute is also home to the National Consultant Laboratory for hantaviruses.