Strengthening Laboratory Systems
CDC-Kenya’s work extends beyond our own laboratories. Through CDC staff’s technical expertise, CDC-Kenya supports the government of Kenya in building the critical laboratory network necessary to detect emerging infections and researches and evaluates state-of-the-art diagnostics in real world settings.
In addition to the strong emphasis on public health laboratory research, CDC-Kenya focuses on the development of public health laboratory systems. CDC-Kenya has worked with the Ministries of Health to develop plans for enhanced laboratory networks and systems, achieve internationally-recognized accreditation of its laboratories, and improve and expand its laboratory infrastructure.
CDC-Kenya supports Kenya’s national laboratory system. With CDC support, the national Tuberculosis (TB) laboratory has been upgraded to a Biosafety Level 3 laboratory and is now capable of conducting sophisticated TB diagnostics, including testing for drug resistance, and providing better support to sub-national laboratories which send samples for confirmation testing. As a result of improved laboratory systems in Kenya, patients are able to get their results, and if necessary treatment, quicker and receive better assurance that the results of their test is accurate.
CDC-Kenya also provides training, technical consultation, and infrastructure support for improved biosafety in Kenya’s laboratory systems, hospitals, and health clinics to reduce risks to health workers and the public. This includes support for improved infection control, medical waste management, and specimen handling. In 2011 alone, CDC supported training in safe phlebotomy practice for over 1800 health workers. Collaborations with the National Blood Transfusion Service also support improved blood collection and distribution systems. CDC has enabled the National Blood Transfusion Service to increase the blood units collected from volunteer donors from 40,000 in 2004 to over 135,000 in 2010.
CDC-Kenya is a leader in establishing high quality diagnostic services. The state-of-the-art laboratories allow CDC-Kenya to support major epidemiologic studies and outbreak investigations for the East Africa region. CDC-Kenya also provides diagnostic testing for routine disease surveillance as well as support for infectious disease outbreaks together with partners such as the Ministries of Health, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, African Medical and Research Foundation, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Institute of Migration.
One of CDC-Kenya’s greatest strengths is the ability to implement new, advanced laboratory technology as well as test new less expensive or easier to use diagnostics specifically designed for resource-limited settings. CDC-Kenya has established on-site laboratory capacity in remote field locations, such as the Dadaab refugee camp, to quickly test for febrile and diarrheal diseases.
One of the questions epidemiologists need to answer quickly, especially during disease outbreaks, is what is the cause of the infection and if the infection is viral, bacterial, or both. That question is increasingly more difficult to answer and current lab technology can return results slowly or fail to detect any pathogens at all. For several years, CDC has worked to develop better and faster technology that is able to detect up to 40 viral and bacterial agents from samples within two and a half hours. This new technology is being pioneered in eleven countries, including Kenya, and critical to controlling an outbreak in its early stages.