By John Agaba
A modern supranational tuberculosis reference laboratory located at Wandegeya, Kampala was yesterday launched by the Minister of Health, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda.
The launch comes after the World Health Organisation approved the upgrade of Uganda’s national tuberculosis reference laboratory to a supranational tuberculosis reference lab.
The lab, located opposite the public service ministry, becomes the second supranational tuberculosis reference lab in Africa, the first being in South Africa.
It also becomes one of the 33 supranational tuberculosis reference labs the world over. This means the lab can now carry out rapid diagnosis of tuberculosis, including multiresistant strands.
It also means other Africa countries can now send samples to be tested here instead of sending them to South Africa or outside of the continent as has been.
Medics promise efficiency
“It’s going to be much easier in terms of disease diagnosis,” said the lab’s head, Dr. Moses Joloba, during the launch yesterday, adding:
“We now have the equipment, the necessary facilities and the capacity. It will be taking us less than two hours to carry out a diagnosis.”
He said as a lab with a supranational status, they will also be engaged in research and will be responsible for the quality assurance of all diagnoses done in the country.
They will also provide technical assistance and provide training on new lab technologies to other health personnel from laboratories both in Uganda and Africa.
Also, as a result of this elevation, Joloba said the Government has agreed to build the lab a new home.The new home will be located in Luzira, a Kampala suburb, at about $2.4m (over sh6b).
According to global figures, over nine million people contract TB annually and about 5,000 die of the disease.
TB burden in Uganda
In Uganda, over 50,000 cases of TB are reported annually. Speaking at the launch of the lab, American Ambassador Scott H. DeLisi, re-echoed the importance of drug adherence in the fight against TB.
“This certifi cation represents a tangible step towards ending TB in Uganda and the neighbouring countries,” said DeLisi.
He said the more deadly form of TB, the multidrug resistant TB, was spreading in East and Central Africa mainly due to the challenges in delivering quality treatment regimens that help TB patients take their medication strictly as prescribed.
He said the increasing cost of TB medical care was a constant drain on health systems as well as familiesand communities.
Uganda gets world class TB lab