16 February 2018

Rwanda: National Lab Acquires Facility to Ease Diagnostics

The Ministry of Health has launched a nucleic acid laboratory, a facility that will make diagnosis by examining the genes of pathogens using molecular biology.

A nucleic acid laboratory is one that uses molecular biology technics to detect the genetic material of the infecting organism, establishing the DNA or RNA of a particular pathogen in a specimen of blood or other tissue or body fluid.

The nucleic acid tests to be conducted by the lab include cancer additional marks, pathogen identification tests for gene mutations that can cause genetic disorders, detecting the multiple cases of drug resistance, detecting the food poisoning toxins, among others.

Speaking at the launch of the laboratory, Dr Ivan Mwikarago, the division manager of the National Reference Laboratory (NRL) at Rwanda Biomedical Centre said that it is an honour for the country to be moving to molecular tests as it is the time where accurate and reliable results need to be put in the public health system.

"We have seen that it is essential to make sure that we cascade molecular biology diagnosis skills in the network," he said, noting that different hospital heads in the country have little skills, if any, as far as this technology is concerned.

Here, he said, the NRL will be responsible to see that these skills are extended to different facilities in the country.

"And we are optimistic that the health facilities will gain a lot from this art technology," he said.

He said, the facility cost about 650, 000 USD to purchase and set up.

He said that it is more automated that when a sample is put into it, it can do much of the work automatically, and produce results in a short time depending on the type of exam taken.

The lab tests will cover all the different types of pathogens including bacteria, virus, parasitic, fungal or even toxins.

He said that it will also reduce the costs of doing such examinations from foreign countries as it has been in the past.

Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, the state minister for public and primary health care, said that it will help improve care extended to patients.

"It is an exciting time. The new state of the art technology will help in toxology, pathogen identification tests for gene mutations, among other tests," he said.

"It is really great progress. Heads of private and public hospitals should take advantage of it to improve care of the patients," he added.

The unit will also contribute to research.

The national reference lab (NRL), under which this nucleic acid lab falls, is responsible for supporting health services delivery in Rwanda through surveillance, prevention, diagnosis and disease management by ensuring quality laboratory services with factual results at all levels.

NRL was ranked 5-star by the east African health laboratory network (EAPHLN) since 2014. It has over 43 referral provincial and district hospital laboratories enrolled in the accreditation process.

It has also made progress in specialised diagnostic testing, laboratory based surveillance, disease outbreak investigations, production of bacteriology proficiency tests panels, malaria and other blood parasites detection, public health research, inter-laboratory networking and lab system strengthening among others.

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