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IMMPaCt Laboratory Activities

Objective/Purposes:

Provide technical assistance and guidance for laboratory related activities to accurately assess micronutrient status through biochemical measurements

Background:

The accurate detection and diagnosis of micronutrient deficiencies is dependent on the validity of lab measurements. However, laboratories in developing countries often lack the resources and experience to decide which biomarkers are best suited for their particular situation and to properly conduct all aspects of planning, training, quality assurance, and data interpretation for national nutrition surveys.

Recent Achievements and/or Key Findings:

Nutritional Biomarkers Branch

  • Provide full laboratory related support, including in-country planning and training visits, to national nutrition surveys
  • Provide an external quality assessment program (VITAL-EQA) for serum-based nutritional indicators to laboratories in developing countries free of charge. The program has grown from 11 labs in 2003 to 31 labs in 2013.
  • Train representatives from various countries in how to reliably conduct the microbiologic assay to measure serum and red blood cell folate in low-resource laboratories
  • Conduct research on the utility of retinol binding protein (RBP) as an inexpensive alternative to serum retinol measurements to assess vitamin A status using subsets of samples from five nutrition surveys
  • Conduct and publish research on the effects of preanalytical factors on the measurement reliability of nutritional and hematologic indicators
  • Develop survey tools for laboratory related activities.
  • Developed for use a robust immunoassay that measures nutritional indicators to assess vitamin A, iron, and infection status and can be transferred easily to laboratories in developing countries.

Inorganic and Radiation Analytical Toxicology Branch

  • Provide an external quality assessment program (EQUIP) for urine iodine measurements free of charge for laboratories worldwide. The program has grown from 34 labs in 25 countries in 2001 to 145 labs in 77 countries in 2013.
  • Train representatives from various countries in how to reliably conduct the assay to measure urine iodine in low-resource laboratories
  • Conduct research and assess and characterize quality control and quality assurance; publish findings for both urine and salt iodine QC/QA materials in low-resource laboratories
  • Provide laboratory support, including analysis of quality assurance samples, for various countries Developed a comprehensive guide for program managers and an operational guide for the iodine laboratories
  • Provide bench level quality control material and general analytical guidance for zinc analysis to laboratories.

Potential Impact:

The availability of guidance and tools on how to correctly collect, process, and analyze biological specimens and how to ensure the quality of the process helps both the public health and scientific communities in their work. Improvements in laboratory measurements allow more efficient and reliable assessment of nutritional status, which supports programs and policies to ultimately improve the health of the population.

Transfer of technology for resource-appropriate methodologies helps strengthen the infrastructure of developing countries and makes them more independent.

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