Guinea Forges Critical Links to Laboratories

Laboratories are a critical link between a patient and their diagnosis — when people are ill, laboratories can confirm the reason. When local facilities don’t have the resources to test specimens from patients, they use a specimen referral chain to send samples to laboratories that may be far away, but which have the ability to run the necessary tests.

In Guinea, health facilities in rural areas didn’t have a working specimen referral chain to get samples from community health centers to laboratories; they had limited training and supplies to deliver biological materials safely. This meant that patients in Guinea had to travel to the nearest hospital, sometimes for hours or days, even to get routine examinations. When faced with this obstacle, many people did not seek treatment at all.

Getting the Answers to Disease Outbreaks

A health post in For%26eacute;cariah, Guinea.

A health post in Forécariah, Guinea.

Laboratory confirmation of disease is important not just for treating patients, but for monitoring which diseases are present in the community and tracking their spread. Without a good specimen referral chain, the work of those trying to track diseases in communities is made more difficult. To conduct effective disease surveillance, during an outbreak the local health team in Guinea previously had to travel to the patient to personally collect the specimen, then package and ship the specimen to Conakry.

Fortunately, Guinea and its partners were able to improve the specimen referral chain to better serve patients and track diseases. Working closely with Guinea’s Ebola Coordination Cell and the Ministry of Health, International Medical Corps, a CDC-funded partner, provided 12 peripheral facilities with training, materials and equipment to safely collect, store, and transport biological specimens. Rural clinicians can now independently refer specimens to diagnostic laboratories, improving their ability to care for patients and identify disease outbreaks quicker and more accurately.