African Journal of Laboratory Medicine
African Journal of Laboratory Medicine, the official journal of ASLM, focuses on the role of the laboratory and its professionals in the clinical and public healthcare sectors,and is specifically based on an African frame of reference.
Emphasis is on all aspects that promote and contribute to the laboratory medicine practices of Africa. This includes, amongst others:
- biomedical scientists and clinicians
- medical community, public health officials and policy makers
- laboratory systems and policies (translation of laboratory knowledge, practices and technologies in clinical care)
- interfaces of laboratory with medical science
- laboratory-based epidemiology
- laboratory investigations
- evidence-based effectiveness in real world (actual) settings
|Coverage||Vol 1 Issue 1 2012 - current|
Introduction: As crucial as clinical laboratories are to preventing, identifying and managing resistance problems, laboratory scientists are among the most overlooked stakeholders. This review outlines the contributions that diagnostic laboratory systems should make toward all five of the World Health Organization's 2015 strategic objectives for antimicrobial resistance containment.
Laboratory systems in resistance containment: Antimicrobial susceptibility testing and surveillance are central to antibacterial resistance management and control and need to be implemented more commonly and closer to sick patients. However, the scope of tests that promote judicious antimicrobial use extend beyond susceptibility testing. Laboratory tests for pathogens or their associated biomarkers confirm or rule out specific causes of signs and symptoms associated with infection. Laboratory systems also provide critical support to infection control programmes. All of these functions promote rational antimicrobial use and contain the spread of resistance. Routine laboratory data supports the development of vaccines and other technologies that could ease the pressure placed by antimicrobials. Laboratories are also a rich source of information for health professionals, policymakers and the general public about the urgency of the resistance problem and progress in containing it.
Conclusion: Laboratory systems are integral to antimicrobial resistance containment and contributions from African laboratories to addressing resistance need to be enhanced.
The laboratory health system and its response to the Ebola virus disease outbreak in Liberia : lessons from the field
The laboratory system in Liberia has generally been fragmented and uncoordinated. Accordingly, the country's Ministry of Health established the National Reference laboratory to strengthen and sustain laboratory services. However, diagnostic testing services were often limited to clinical tests performed in health facilities, with the functionality of the National Reference Laboratory restricted to performing testing services for a limited number of epidemic-prone diseases. The lack of testing capacity in-country for Lassa fever and other haemorrhagic fevers affected the response of the country's health system during the onset of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak. Based on the experiences of the EVD outbreak, efforts were initiated to strengthen the laboratory system and infrastructure, enhance human resource capacity, and invest in diagnostic services and public health surveillance to inform admittance,treatment, and discharge decisions. In this article, we briefly describe the pre-EVD laboratory capability in Liberia, and extensively explore the post-EVD strengthening initiatives to enhance capacity, mobilise resources and coordinate disaster response with international partners to rebuild the laboratory infrastructure in the country. Now that the EVD outbreak has ended, additional initiatives are needed to revise the laboratory strategic and operational plan for post-EVD relevance, promote continual human resource capacity, institute accreditation and validation programmes, and coordinate the investment strategy to strengthen and sustain the preparedness of the laboratory sector to mitigate future emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
Pre-Ebola virus disease laboratory system and related challenges in Liberia : lessons from the field
Prior to the Ebola virus disease outbreak in Liberia, the laboratory system was duplicative, fragmented and minimally coordinated. The National Reference Laboratory was conceptualised to address the existing challenges by promoting the implementation of effective and sustainable laboratory services in Liberia. However, in a resource-limited environment such as Liberia, progress regarding the rebuilding of the health system can be relatively slow, while efforts to sustain the transient gains remain a key challenge for the Ministry of Health. In this paper, we describe the pre-Ebola virus disease laboratory system in Liberia and its prevailing efforts to address future emerging infectious diseases, as well as current Infectious diseases, all of which are exacerbated by poverty. We conclude that laboratory and diagnostic services in Liberia have encountered numerous challenges regarding its efforts to strengthen the healthcare delivery system. These challenges include limited trained human resource capacity, inadequate infrastructure, and a lack of coordination. As with most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, when comparing urban and rural settings, diagnostic and clinical services are generally skewed toward urban health facilities and private, faith-based health facilities. We recommend that structured policy be directed at these challenges for national institutions to develop guidelines to improve, strengthen and sustain diagnostic and curative laboratory services to effectively address current infectious diseases and prepare for future emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
Stepwise approach for implementation of antimicrobial resistance surveillance in Africa : lessons from the field
Background: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has reached an end point, prompting a worldwide scare as no new antibiotics are in the pipeline, particularly for treatment of Gram negative bacteria. To prevent further development and spread of AMR and to inform empirical treatment guidelines, surveillance of AMR is necessary.
Objective: We aim to provide a framework for a stepwise approach toward implementation of laboratory-based surveillance for AMR in African countries.
Methods and Results: Building up a surveillance system is a robust process that begins with a gap analysis in each participating country. This framework provides practical guidance on how to set up surveillance, identify responsibilities and set time lines in sustainable manner for African countries. It addresses sampling strategies, human resources, procurement and maintenance issues for AMR testing at routine clinical and national reference and public health laboratories involved in AMR surveillance. Key issues such as laboratory capacity building, training and continuous education, quality and diagnostic stewardship are discussed in detail.
Discussion: There are several priorities for AMR surveillance that need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner at regional and national levels, whilst keeping in line with current and proposed initiatives for laboratory capacity building, in order for African countries to achieve goals for combatting the real and current threat of AMR.
Practical recommendations for strengthening national and regional laboratory networks in Africa in the Global Health Security era : lessons from the field
The role of national health laboratories in support of public health response has expanded beyond laboratory testing to include a number of other core functions such as emergency response, training and outreach, communications, laboratory-based surveillance and data management. These functions can only be accomplished by an efficient and resilient national laboratory network that includes public health, reference, clinical and other laboratories. It is a primary responsibility of the national health laboratory in the Ministry of Health to develop and maintain the national laboratory network in the country. In this article, we present practical recommendations based on 17 years of network development experience for the development of effective national laboratory networks. These recommendations and examples of current laboratory networks, are provided to facilitate laboratory network development in other states. The development of resilient, integrated laboratory networks will enhance each state's public health system and is critical to the development of a robust national laboratory response network to meet global health security threats.
A framework for the assessment and implementation of diagnostics in outbreak situations : lessons from the field
Observation: Outbreak situations require in vitro diagnostics (IVDs) to identify those who are infected and to track the infectious agent in the population. However, such IVDs are typically not available and must be developed. In addition, the process of IVD development, assessment,and implementation are very time and resource intensive. Recognising the extraordinary public health need for IVDs in an outbreak situation, streamlined processes are needed to provide tests that meet the standard of a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness in the shortest amount of time. These IVDs are designated for outbreak use.
Addressing Issues: This paper presents a pathway to the outbreak use of IVDs that can be considered by countries experiencing an outbreak situation. It takes into account recognition of the outbreak, product development, regulatory evaluation, implementation, and monitoring of the outbreak-use test. Streamlined assessment programmes for emergency-use tests have been established by the US Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. These programmes take into account test requirements for the country in which the outbreak exists. Therefore, countries can consider adopting these tests without the need to conduct expensive and time consuming assessments, such as performance studies. Key responsible parties are identified for each step of the pathway, recognising that transparency and communication among all parties are critical.