Pandemic Preparedness and Response - Strengthening Laboratory Capacity in Response to COVID-19

MCDI has been an international leader in the strengthening of laboratories, laboratory personnel and clinicians from the ministries of health and partner organizations from public and private sectors for malaria for over 15 years. With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, MCDI has been called on to adapt its on-going technical assistance to help put in place and support diagnostics for Covid-19 in 14 African countries1 under the President’s Malaria Initiative’s (PMI’s) Impact Malaria Project where MCDI serves as a sub-contractor to PSI and technical lead for malaria diagnostics and co-lead for malaria treatment. MCDI has similarly been asked to adapt its technical assistance for malaria diagnostics to include Covid-19 in Guinea (Conakry) where it is a subcontractor to RTI International for PMI’s Stop Palu+ Project, and in Equatorial Guinea where it is the prime contractor for the Bioko Island Malaria Elimination Project (BIMEP) funded by the Government of Equatorial Guinea, Marathon Oil, Chevron and AMPCO.

Under the two PMI-funded projects MCDI has assisted by developing training materials on the management and shipment of infectious substances, biosafety for clinical and laboratory staff, management of infectious diseases including SARS-Cov-2, and on improving diagnosis for other non-malaria infectious diseases as part of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) differential diagnosis.

In DRC, under the USAID/PMI Impact Malaria project, MCDI has supported the National COVID-19 Response Coordinating Committee to adapt laboratory and clinical guidelines and to extend COVID-19 response from the national level to the provincial level. This support includes the implementation of a system for collection, conservation, and transportation of samples from provinces to the national medical research institute’s (INRB’s) main laboratory while assessing the possibility of decentralization of diagnostic analyses in these provinces. MCDI has also supported the integration of COVID-19 supportive supervision into the existing malaria outreach training and supportive supervision (OTSS+) supervision checklist and the development, dissemination, and implementation of a quality assurance manual. Lastly, MCDI has helped the DRC Government implement contextualized remote meetings for COVID-19 technical working groups.

Photo of a patient receiving a finger prick blood test
A patient receiving a finger prick blood test
In Equatorial Guinea, MCDI has been leading an international initiative to build a regional referral laboratory, with the support of donors and other implementing partners, including the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), the Tanzania Ifakara Health Institute (IHI), and Sanaria Inc. Under BIMEP, MCDI and its partners have established a national reference laboratory in Baney District on Bioko Island. The Baney lab was initially designed to implement clinical trials for a malaria candidate vaccine (PfSPZ Vaccine) and to support the nascent Institute of Public Health of Equatorial Guinea. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lab was repurposed to support the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare’s (MOHSW’s) pandemic preparedness and response and it received WHO certification to conduct PCR tests for SARS-Cov-2. The Baney laboratory was the first certified laboratory in the country.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, with MCDI’s support, the Baney laboratory has conducted 77,314 PCR tests, enabling the country to rapidly identify, isolate, and control transmission. The lab has also supported the testing requirements of neighboring countries like Sao Tome and Principe and is continuously training personnel to ensure that quality testing meets the needs of the population of Equatorial Guinea.

1Benin, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, DRC, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zambia

Figure 1: Blood collection during OTSS+ in Sendwe Hospital, Haut-Katanga Province, DRC

Figure 2: Explanation of parasite species identification during OTSS+ at Saint Joseph Hospital, Haut-Katanga Province, DRC

Figure 3: Malaria in Pregnancy observation during clinical OTSS+ at SNCC Hospital in Likasi, Haut-Katanga Province, DRC

Figure 4: OTSS+ supervision at SNCC Hospital in Likasi, Haut-Katanga Province, DRC

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