Uganda receives medical equipment that can cut bacteriology diagnostics time in half

Uganda has received three pioneering laboratory machines to speed up the process of testing and treating patients for bacterial infections as part of a UK/Uganda partnership aimed at tackling drug resistance.

The machines automate part of the laboratory tests that identify the bacteria causing a patient’s infection and can deliver results to doctors up to 18 hours quicker, saving critical time in the diagnosis of life-threatening conditions.

One of the machines, a mass spectrometer MALDI-TOF, is the first of its kind in Uganda and identifies bacteria in just two minutes, compared with 18-48 hours for conventional testing.

The machines have been provided as a part of the Fleming Fund, a £265 million investment by UK Aid to tackle the growing threat of drug resistance in 24 low and middle-income countries around the world. The programme is managed by the UK Department of Health and Social Care in partnership with Mott MacDonald, the Fleming Fund Grant Management Agent.

Clinical Microbiologist for the Fleming Fund’s Management Agent, Mott MacDonald, Emmanuel Azore said:

Up until now, treatment in Uganda has been syndromic (according to symptoms), rather than based on laboratory testing or findings. This often results in misdiagnosis and can increase the risk of drug resistance if patients aren’t administered the correct medicines. These new machines, specifically the MALDI-TOF, will speed up testing results, reduce human errors and ensure that more junior microbiologists can conduct diagnostic tests with accuracy.”

This week, the equipment will be delivered to Uganda’s National Health Laboratory Service where staff will receive training on the MALDI-TOF, an automated blood culture machine, and an antimicrobial susceptibility testing machine (that tests which drugs are effective in treating a particular pathogen).

The Infectious Disease Institute, the Fleming Fund’s implementing partner in Uganda, is helping to facilitate the training, in collaboration with medical equipment supplier BD. IDI is also supporting the development of a national AMR surveillance strategy, a One Health national governance structure and equipment delivery in animal health laboratories.

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Fleming Fund Fellowships support training and capacity building for scientists, epidemiologists and clinicians in over 20 countries across Africa and Asia. In Uganda, Fleming Fellow Michael Omodo is studying bacteria that move between humans and animals to understand how best to tackle resistance.

After 23 months of Fleming Fund support, the first country grant in Uganda comes to an end this month. The grant has helped develop an AMR governance structure, improved collaboration between animal and human health stakeholders and helped establish a system of collecting, analysing and disseminating AMR data.