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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Robust information management systems are essential for managing and analysing large volumes of data from AMR surveillance systems. In animal and human health, data must be quality assured, communicated from laboratories to clinicians, veterinarians, patients or farmers, and sent to national data coordinating centres. Data must also be interrogated at the regional, national and international level to explore AMR patterns and trends.

The Fleming Fund is working with Uganda’s health care system to break down the barriers to disease surveillance by strengthening laboratory and diagnostic capacity in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) - leveraging in-country infrastructure and sustainability - for global health security.