Lassa fever: NIMR to Produce Guidelines on Epidemiology, Treatment

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-As institution’s laboratory gets WHO’s prequalification

As part of efforts to curtail the spread of Lassa fever, which has claimed over 100 lives, with 1,121 suspected cases since January, the Director General, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Professor Babatunde Salako, has disclosed that the institution is embarking on a collaborative research with other organisations to produce a roadmap on the epidemiology, treatment and possible prevention of the disease.

Prof. Salako who spoke to press men while announcing the accreditation of the institution’s Centre for Human Virology and Genomics (CHVG) as a World Health Organisation (WHO) prequalification evaluating laboratory, said the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole had directed the institute to embark on research to curtail the disease.

-As institution’s laboratory gets WHO’s prequalification
Director General, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Prof. Babatunde Salako and Deputy Director of Research, NIMR, Dr Rosemary Audu (MIddle) flanked by other directors of the institute, after the briefing

His words: “Recently we had an emergency national council meeting in Abuja, and the honourable minister directed that the institution should embark on research into the possible restraint of the disease. In doing so, we have put together what we called a symposium on Lassa fever research, in conjunction with the National Centre for Disease Control and Lassa Fever Centre,  all in few months,  to come out with a roadmap on the epidemiology, treatment and possible prevention of the disease”.

The NIMR boss, who was very optimistic about the institution’s efforts, however noted that without the availability of four bio-safety laboratories in the country, findings on the disease would be significantly limited.

Highlighting the implication of WHO’s accreditation of NIMR’s laboratory for Nigerians, Salako noted that the gesture would help to reduce misdiagnosis of diseases in the country, adding that the institute has got capacity to determine best rapid test kits for HIV, Hepatitis B, C and D, thus bringing about decrease in stigmatisation and poverty.

The import of the achievement, according to the DG, “is that the laboratory is now listed as a WHO Prequalification Evaluating Laboratory to perform evaluation of In Vitro Diagnostics either coordinated by WHO or commissioned by the manufacturers”.

The enlisting of the CHVG’s laboratory as a WHO prequalification evaluating laboratory has increased the total number of such laboratories in the world to ten. The nine others are located in Australia, Belgium, France, India, South Africa (two) Tanzania and United Kingdom (two) .

The Deputy Director of Research, NIMR, Dr Rosemary Audu, noted another merit of the achievement, which she said is decrease in medical tourism. She said the pre-qualification will drastically reduce the number of people travelling abroad for medical diagnosis, as they can rely on medical results from NIMR’s CHVG’s laboratory as authentic.

Dr Audu further attributed the attainment of the feat to the possession of a Gold Standard Technology by the institution, saying this global device places results achieved in the laboratory very close to what is obtained in other international laboratories.

“Due to the possession of the Gold Standard Technology in our laboratory, we have been able to characterise our blood samples, and this enabled us to have a pool of blood samples, which are banked with us. Thus when new kits arrive, we evaluate their qualities with our Gold Standard Technology, then verify if this rapid test kit can attain close to the value obtained by our technology.

“In addition to this, we are also enrolled with external quality assurance programmes, one of them is College of American Pathology, and we have Quality Control for Molecular Diagnostics (QCMD). They also send us panel for evaluation periodically, to compare our results with global standards”, she said.

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