In April 2014 a programme was launched by Her Excellency the First Lady Madam Zainab Jammeh to kick-start the process of virtual Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (eMTCT) in The Gambia. This was to be supported by HIV 1 and 2 diagnoses by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) from filter paper blood samples to be conducted by the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL).
However, due to the refurbishment of the molecular laboratory at the National Public Health Laboratory the process of testing was delayed while the test kits were already in-country and in danger of expiring. Due to the short life span of the test kits, the NPHL requested support to run the samples at MRC Molecular Diagnostics (MDx) laboratory. Two NPHL staff were already trained at The Unit on similar methods who were chosen to come along with the samples to be analysed and also receive further training in HIV molecular diagnosis in the process. The training started on the 9th of December 2014 and the NPHL staff started the sample processing in the MDx facility on the 22nd of December 2014. After testing, the results are reviewed and validated by the Higher Scientific Officer of the MDx lab before being issued. The process is still ongoing with a target to analyse approximately 250 samples.
The project is led by the HSO for MDx lab, Ms Aminata Vilane, who is supervised by Dr Alfred Ngwa and the head of laboratory services, Dr Davis Nwakanma.The partnership between the Gambian National Public Health laboratory and the Molecular Diagnostics Platform of the MRC Unit The Gambia has been a long standing one which will be strengthened by the current support being provided in support of a worthy health initiative. The main focus this time is to provide to the National Public Health Lab a facility to enable generation of reliable test results that is critical to the treatment decisions for the health of the patients even while their molecular lab is being refurbished.
The MDx will also provide technical support to guide in getting the assays up and running after completion of the refurbishment and before molecular diagnosis is started at the NPHL. This is a continuation of the cordial relationship and collaboration which has always existed between our institution and the Gambian government health services and mirrors what obtains in other areas of activities by The Unit.