PROPER DIAGNOSIS

Sh300m facility to sequence Covid variants

Facility will sequence entire genomes under the National Public Health Laboratories at Kenyatta National Hospital.

In Summary

• The facility under the National Public Health Laboratories will provide active screening and identification of variant strains of concern.

• They include variants of Covid-19, HIV, TB, malaria, influenza and Neglected Tropical Diseases

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during recognition of accreditation status and other achievements by the National Public Health Laboratories at Kenyatta National Hospital on October 13.
RECOGNISED: Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during recognition of accreditation status and other achievements by the National Public Health Laboratories at Kenyatta National Hospital on October 13.
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Kenya has received Sh300 million to set up a facility to identify variants such as Covid-19's Delta strain.

It will also identify other Covid variants and those for HIV, TB, malaria, influenza and other neglected tropical diseases.

The Health Ministry secured Sh300 million to establish a whole-genome sequencing facility under the National Public Health Laboratories at Kenyatta National Hospital.

Sequencing of Covid-19 variants has previously been done on behalf of the Health Ministry by partners such as the International Livestock Research Institute, Kemri-Welcome Trust, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Walter Reed Hospital.

“Proper diagnosis of diseases remains a key challenge in the provision of proper care to patients globally, "Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said on Wednesday.

The CS spoke during the celebration of accreditation status and other achievements by the National Public Health Laboratories at the Kenyatta National Hospital.

Diagnostic data is critical for patient management and for the prevention of diseases. Laboratory investigations are important for disease surveillance and for control and management of outbreaks, he said.

The NPHL is a conglomerate of eight reference laboratories in Nairobi and seven regional public health laboratories in Malindi, Wajir, Marsabit, Kitale, Eldoret, Busia and Machakos.

Five of the eight are now fully accredited with various ISO accreditation. The remaining three are expected to be accredited during e FY2021-22.

The NPHL in Nairobi provides reference testing for diseases such as TB, HIV, cancer, influenza, malaria, microbes and other parasitic diseases as well as analysis of food and water safety.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during the celebration of accreditation status and other achievements by the National Public Health Laboratories at the Kenyatta National Hospital on October 13.
ACCREDITED: Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during the celebration of accreditation status and other achievements by the National Public Health Laboratories at the Kenyatta National Hospital on October 13.
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Initially, Kenya’s capacity to conduct sophisticated tests was limited to samples collected, such as quantitative PCR tests, having to be shipped abroad for analysis.

“The NPHL is now the leading facility in the region in terms of the volumes of samples analysed each year for pandemic influenza, cancer, malaria, HIV and TB. It also plays a critical role in the analysis of HIV viral load and the analysis for HIV and TB resistance,” Kagwe said.

Even more impressive is that the national influenza centre is now an accredited WHO centre of excellence for influenza surveillance in the East and Central Africa,” he added.

The accreditation allows the ministry to maintain active surveillance for flu and related influenza-like illnesses and submit variant strains to WHO for future consideration in research for vaccine development.

The NPHL also coordinates  Covid-19 testing in the country since the first case was reported. It has played a major role in providing quality assurance panels and coordinating the allocation and distribution of Covid-19 commodities to various Covid-19 testing laboratories.

Currently, Kenya has 95 sites testing for Covid-19 using PCR methods and another 461 sites testing using rapid antigen kits.

Additionally, NPHL also runs the national Covid-19 data centre that collects, analyses and releases daily Covid-19 test results.

(Edited by V. Graham)