The Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, hosted the Paediatric Bacterial Meningitis (PMB) Bacteriology and External Quality Assurance Program (EQAP) Surveillance and Laboratory Training Workshop in The Gambia, from 28th October to 1st November 2019.
The training was attended by 70 participants from 12 different countries, mainly staff from the IB-VPD network laboratories that are supported by the WHO Collaborating Centre for New Vaccines Surveillance hosted at the MRCG at LSHTM. The training aimed to strengthen and upgrade the capacity of these laboratories to provide rapid, timely and reliable results for program use. Participants were trained on the surveillance, laboratory diagnosis and molecular serotyping of bacteria pathogens that cause meningitis in children under 5 years old. This is part of the region’s efforts to improve sentinel surveillance as part of integrated surveillance for vaccine preventable diseases such as Diphtheria, Pertussis and Typhoid and to address the need for global capacity on Vaccine Preventable Diseases (VPD).
In his opening remarks, Dr Desta A Tiruneh, WHO Representative to The Gambia, thanked the Government of The Gambia for their support, as well as the MRCG at LSHTM for serving as the WHO Collaborating Centre. He stated, “over the years, surveillance for diseases targeted by new vaccines have made enormous contributions to evidence-based introduction of new vaccines. Following the establishment of the paediatric bacterial meningitis sentinel surveillance in 2002, significant progress in supporting informed decision making on new vaccine introduction”. According to Dr Tiruneh, all 47 countries in the WHO Africa Region have introduced Hib containing vaccine into their National Expanded Programmes on Immunization. He urged participants to use the training to enhance and strengthen their capacity to conduct surveillance for vaccine-preventable disease in the region
Discussions at the training centered mainly on the status of the quality of data generated from the paediatric bacterial meningitis surveillance in the region. They also looked at factors hindering generation of high-quality new vaccines surveillance data both at the sentinel site and at country level. The training also highlighted the need to ensure laboratories have quality control systems in place that plays a critical role in the confirmation of meningitis and pneumonia bacterial pathogens and serotyping of pneumococcal strains.
Training Coordinator Jason Mwenda from the WHO Regional Office Congo said, “The training is very important as it will enable participant countries to build capacity to monitor the impact of PCV vaccination. He additionally made emphasis on laboratories having quality control systems for the confirmation of meningitis and pneumonia bacterial pathogen and serotyping of pneumococcal strains”.
Dr Inacio Mando Mando, Senior Research Scientist and Coordinator of Diarrheal Disease Research Area said, “This is an opportunity to help us analyse data more effectively in addition to improving our capacity on sentinel surveillance as part of integrated surveillance for VPD”.
Basic bacteriology capacities remain a big challenge for the diagnosis of bacterial vaccine preventable diseases. It is expected that the training will inspire and encourage participants to increase microbiological capacity, AMR and awareness for these infections and establish a solid framework with epidemiologists and public health officials within their countries.