Laboratory Strengthening: Our Impact

 {Photo credit:  Diana Sharone Tumuhairwe} MDR-TB patients receiving continuous health education at Lira hospital.Photo credit: Diana Sharone Tumuhairwe

Although the incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in Uganda is declining, multidrug resistant TB (MDR-TB), a strain of TB that cannot be treated with the two most powerful first-line medicines, is a growing concern. This is especially true in Uganda’s Lira district, a commercial hub in the Northern region.

 {Photo credit: Eskindir Degu/MSH}Endiros Tadiswal after completing two months of TB treatment.Photo credit: Eskindir Degu/MSH

When the community health worker knocked on his door, Endiros Tadiswal was relieved. The 19-year-old boy had been suffering from a terrible cough, chest pains, fever, and weight loss for nearly six months and had become too weak to attend school.

 {Photo credit: Giang Hoai Nguyen/MSH, Vietnam.}TB CARE I conducts on-site training to teach laboratory staff at Hanoi Lung Hospital how to safely package TB samples before shipping them to the national laboratory.Photo credit: Giang Hoai Nguyen/MSH, Vietnam.

Vietnam is one of 27 countries with the highest burden of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), a form of TB that is hard to treat and cannot be cured by at least two of the primary treatment drugs. Unfortunately, the country has just two national laboratories equipped for MDR-TB diagnosis. Until recently, health facility staff had to deliver patient specimens to the laboratories themselves—often requiring laboratory technicians to travel long distances over poor roads.

Dr. Anyo takes staff and interns through a hands-on training exercise during onsite supervision. {Photo credit: Gladys Anyo/MSH.}Photo credit: Gladys Anyo/MSH.

While tuberculosis (TB) is receiving widespread attention in the global health community, many in South Sudan still consider this disease a repulsive affliction and feel uncomfortable associating with TB patients. In addition to fear and discrimination in the general population, the nation’s health professionals often avoid working with TB patients, TB equipment, and sputum samples for fear that they could become infected themselves.

Dr. Catherine Mundy.Dr. Catherine Mundy.

Laboratory services are a necessary but sometimes neglected element of a strong health system. From disease control and surveillance to patient diagnosis and care, laboratories are central to public health. Where laboratory services, policies or strategy are lacking, a comprehensive systems approach can improve a nation's infrastructure and capacity to manage and finance laboratory systems.MSH spoke with Dr.

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