By Chioma Obinna
The era of false positive or false negative reports of diseases such as HIV and syphilis among others may have become a thing of the past as the World Health Organisation, WHO, yesterday listed the Centre for Human Virology and Genomics at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, NIMR, as its prequalification evaluating laboratory.
With the new status, NIMR has become the first centre in West Africa to attain the feat and would now conduct independent performance evaluations of In vitro Diagnostics (IVDs) that would assist in the diagnosis and monitoring of infection with HIV-1, hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Announcing this at a press conference in Lagos, the Director-General of NIMR, Prof. Babatunde Salako said the development came following a successful re-audit of the laboratory to ISO 15189:2012 standard by WHO in Geneva last Monday.
He disclosed that there are only 10 laboratories currently enlisted as WHO prequalification laboratories all over the world and Nigeria has become one of the 10.
“This is not a mean feat. With this, Nigerians should expect our ability to be able to carry out tests among many kits that are produced by different scientists and brought into our country without adequate assessment. We have developed proficiency in being able to test almost 100 percent that a kit is as good as the function it is expected to perform.
“We are bringing on board that capacity to improve case detection of diseases and to reduce issues of false positive or false negative reports especially, HIV which is a disease of poverty and stigma. Because if a person is wrongly diagnosed to have a disease when the person did not have a disease, the person would have suffered a lot of emotional issues before somebody comes to say that it was a mistake.
“The laboratory provides routine diagnostic services for HIV-1 confirmation, HIV-1 viral load and early infant diagnosis to the institutional HIV treatment centre which cares for over 20,000 patients and patients from other health facilities.
The centre also conducts Hepatitis B and C serology and viral loads for several other hospitals and laboratories across the country. The laboratory has highly skilled and competent personnel who perform these assays and evaluations,” he explained.
Commenting on Lassa fever outbreak, Salako who expressed worry on the trend disclosed that the institute has been mandated to conduct research into the epidemiology of the disease and possibly identify whether there are new strains of the disease that are just appearing in the country.
Salako said within the next few years, NIMR would be coming out with the roadmap to determine the epidemiology of the disease, possible areas of treatment and prevention as well as possible vaccine.“As far as Nigeria is concern we don’t have vaccines for Lassa fever but there are institutes that have developed the vaccine outside the country and we are hoping to try the vaccine in the country.