A reference laboratory within the LRN performs tests to detect and confirm (rule-in) the presence of a threat agent. These labs ensure a timely local response in the event of a terrorist incident. Rather than having to rely on confirmation from laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), reference laboratories are capable of producing conclusive results. This allows local authorities to respond quickly to emergencies.
A national laboratory is the highest level within the LRN. Examples would include those operated by CDC, the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, and the Naval Medical Research Center. These laboratories have very unique resources to handle highly infectious agents and the ability to identify specific agent strains.