March 2020

How the National Measurement Laboratory at LGC supports EURAMET and world health

How does measurement science impact healthcare?

As a fundamental human right, public healthcare is continually at the forefront of policies and regulation around the world. The UN’s specialised agency for international public health, the World Health Organisation (WHO), is constantly striving to fight diseases and ensure the survival of individuals from all parts of society. Last year, World Health Day was internationally observed to raise awareness of the need for universal primary healthcare for all people – an objective that has in fact always been central to the WHO.

On 7 April 2020, World Health Day will place a spotlight on nurses and midwives, and their incredible role in providing health care around the globe. As this is the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, the WHO and other organisations aim to strengthen and raise the profile of the healthcare workforce and what is being done to support them.

Better measurements for better health

The provision of sustainable, safe and reliable health services around the world is importantly underpinned by research in measurement science (or, metrology) – a field that governs our ability to measure everything that is needed for human activity. Metrology research has made it possible for modern society to rely on a fundamental international system of standard units, from which we can obtain globally comparable and reliable measurements.

Metrology researchers around the world, including our scientists within the UK’s National Measurement Laboratory (NML) at LGC, remain focused on developing new technologies and methods to improve our confidence in measurement accuracy.

Within healthcare, this research supports the effective diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of health conditions, the improvement of instrument efficiency, and the rapid translation of novel technologies into the clinic – all of which depend on accurate physical, chemical and biological measurements. From the quantification of infectious agents for the improved diagnosis of tuberculosis to radiation dose measurements for the safe delivery of ultrasound cancer treatments, metrology plays an instrumental role in supporting clinicians and nurses with the diagnosis, treatment or even prevention of illnesses and diseases worldwide.

EURAMET (the European Association of National Metrology Institutes) is responsible for coordinating measurement science research across Europe. The collaborative structure of the organisation has been shaped by pooling together the expertise from metrology institutes, including the NML at LGC, academia and industry to develop high accuracy, low uncertainty measurements that can meet societal and healthcare needs.

At present, one of the most pressing challenges in international healthcare fields is the rise of anti-microbial resistance in disease-causing pathogens. Anti-microbial resistance is the ability of a pathogen to prevent anti-microbial drugs (like antibiotics) from working against it, rendering treatments for infectious diseases ineffective. In 2016, almost half a million people across the globe developed multi-drug resistance to tuberculosis alone. This rise in anti-microbial resistance has affected the accurate and timely diagnosis of many life-threatening infectious diseases – which are normally detected in clinical laboratories using standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques. A EURAMET research project (coordinated by LGC, the host of the UK’s NML) has improved a highly accurate digital form of the PCR technique, making it easier to identify drug-resistant strains of infectious diseases, and therefore to effectively treat serious infections like influenza, malaria and tuberculosis.

To find out more about the role and impact of measurement science in healthcare, follow EURAMET’s #measurementsforhealth hashtag on Twitter and LinkedIn. Visit their World Health Day 2020 webpage for more information that will be released in upcoming weeks.