The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for governments in West Africa to prioritize laboratory medicine to deal with emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, as early laboratory diagnosis is the panacea for subduing emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
Air Commodore Edward A. Akinwale (Rtd), Laboratory Quality Assurance Manager with the Henry Jackson Foundation for Advancement of Military Medicine in Support of the US Military HIV Program (MHRP) and Research, said, regional governments need to be proactive in strengthening medical laboratory systems in the region and treat foreign aids as a bonus when available.
He said, “achieving this requires the availability of skilled and adequate manpower, cutting-edge equipment in conducive facility as well as top-notch logistics support.”
The Nigerian Scientist, herald for his work in producing the first Africa Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) certified 5-star Laboratory in Nigeria and Africa, was speaking at the end of a Celebratelab West Africa free webinar series organised in partnership with the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists (GAMLS) and the Ghana Health Service for laboratory professionals in the region. Celebratelab is a regional platform focused on Laboratory System Strengthening across West Africa national borders.
The COVID-19 diagnostics discussion for Clinical and Research Laboratory Professionals and Policymakers across the West Africa Region took off in May after Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak led to the suspension of the annual conference usually held in April.
Scientific Experts from across the region led and facilitated the sessions, delivered through presentations and panel discussions, covering the following areas: COVID-19 Patient Sample Management: Testing for Diagnosis and Routine Care; Diagnostic Challenges in COVID-19 Pandemic Response in West Africa; Biosafety in the Era of COVID-19; Serological Diagnosis of COVID-19; Molecular Diagnostics of COVID-19; and Creating and Sustaining the Value Chain in the Health Laboratory Industry.
On average, about 600 Medical Laboratory Professionals from across Africa and outside the continent, participated in each of the six virtual series aimed at sharing knowledge and best practices to improve diagnosis for better health outcomes during the pandemic.
Candace B. Eastman, CEO of Africabio Enterprises Inc., organizers of the annual CelebrateLAB West Africa Conference, said: “The vision is to improve the clinical diagnostics environment in a holistic manner.”
She added that “In low-resource settings like West Africa, knowledge sharing among health professionals is crucial at a time of an outbreak of infectious disease that little is known about.”
Dr. Dennis Adu-Gyasi, Consultant Medical Laboratory Scientist and Research Fellow at the Kintampo Health Research Centre, Ghana, who led some of the sessions, said: “Through the collaboration, we were able to impact knowledge to professionals in the comfort of their working environment while attaining the needed credits to renew their professional licenses.”
Dr. Adu-Gyasi said, “the diverse scientific experts from the region who facilitated the sessions, have set the tone for us to work together to make the continent self-sufficient in all aspects of medical laboratory practice,”
On his part, Liberian Scientist, Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan, Chief Scientific Officer with Sufflex Biomed, Liberia, a company that developed a Multiplex Diagnostic Test, noted that: “Government policy decisions in Africa must strongly prioritize healthcare in general and laboratory medicine in particular with increased budgetary support.”.
The Chief Scientist in Infectious Disease Research & Diagnostics said Scientists in West Africa are determined to collaborate “across national borders to collectively improve the practice of medical laboratory science in Africa and provide quality healthcare services to our people.”
The next CelebrateLAB West Africa Conference will take place in Accra, Ghana, from 20 – 22 April 2021 on the theme: Combating emerging and re-emerging infections through standardization of laboratory practice across West Africa.