Major refurbishment of molecular diagnostics laboratory

Full scale molecular diagnostics activities were resumed recently at MRC Fajara, following the completion of a £500,000 refurbishment programme funded by the Medical Research Council (UK).

Himsworth Laboratory

Cutting the ribbon at the refurbished Himsworth Laboratory, MRC Unit The Gambia. From left: Dr Martin Antonio, Dr Shamila Jah (WHO), Dr Davis Nwakanma (Senior Laboratory Manager, MRC); Professor Beate Kampmann (Theme Leader – Vaccinology, MRC).

The Himsworth Laboratory is the home of the MRC Unit The Gambia Regional Reference Laboratory (RRL), which provides diagnostic services to support the surveillance network for Invasive Bacterial Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (IB-VPD) in the WHO African Region (AFRO). This network is comprised of 17 sites in 11 countries in West and Central Africa including Benin, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, DR Congo, The Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

In addition to the major refurbishment programme, a number of additional measures have been implemented over the past year to safeguard consistency and quality assurance, including regular scheduled decontamination and monitoring procedures; re-zoning of laboratory space to improve workflow; and segregation of clinical sample processing from routine molecular genotyping work.

Processes have been separated, segregated and staff trained to ensure optimal quality assurance of laboratory processes at the upgraded Himsworth Laboratory.

Processes have been separated, segregated and staff trained to ensure optimal quality assurance of laboratory processes at the upgraded Himsworth Laboratory.

At the re-commissioning on 3rd February 2014, Dr Shamila Jah, representing the WHO country representative said ‘We are really happy and proud to be associated with the MRC [as a Regional Reference Laboratory]. The WHO (Africa Region and Geneva) is very interested in monitoring the serotypes of pneumococcal strains and resistance, particularly with the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine in most of the countries [in the network]…Congratulations to the MRC: the accreditation process is very rigorous.’

Dr Martin Antonio (Senior Scientist, Vaccinology Theme, MRC Unit The Gambia) concluded by saying ‘We now have a facility we can be really proud of, second to none in West Africa.’