South Sudan on Sunday said it will be establishing molecular testing capacities for influenza and other high threat infectious diseases like Ebola virus disease (EVD), yellow fever, Marburg virus disease (MVD) and rift valley fever (RVF).
WHO in a statement issued in Juba said molecular testing will enhance capacities for timely confirmation and prompt response to emerging disease outbreaks in the East African nation.
“This is very exciting and a big step forward for South Sudan,” said Olushayo Olu, WHO representative for South Sudan.
It said that absence of in-country capacities for molecular testing has been a significant setback for prompt initiation of recommended public health responses to influenza outbreaks and other emerging threats.
WHO disclosed that its regional office for Africa was prompted by this gap to fund procurement of a Real-Time Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine.
“The National Public Health Laboratory has successfully tested two cases from Nimule with an average turnaround time of four hours from the receipt of the samples to reporting of results. This is a milestone in the country’s capacity reducing the time for diagnosis from days to hours,” said Olu.
The UN agency revealed that diagnosing infectious diseases using PCR offers conclusive test results to support prompt initiation of recommended public health response.
It also reduces the cost of transporting samples outside the country; and enhances national compliance to the International Health Regulations (2005) core capacities.
WHO said with the installation of the PCR machine, South Sudan is able to perform confirmatory testing for influenza, EVD and other high threat diseases, thus putting the country at par with other countries in the region.
“Real-time PCR technology options are increasingly being used in resource-limited settings because they are faster and have higher output,” it added.
WHO is providing ongoing mentoring and support of laboratory staff as testing methodologies and processes are set up.
It added that it will also support the establishment of a laboratory quality management system for the molecular laboratory in South Sudan.