The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated three laboratories to test disease outbreak samples, its Director-General, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said on Tuesday in Abuja.
Mr Ihekweazu, who disclosed this during a media tour of the NCDC National Reference Laboratory in Gaduwa, Abuja, said the three new laboratories were at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), and the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, Abuja.
He said the laboratories would provide primary testing for yellow fever, measles and rubella diseases.
“The teaching hospitals where these laboratories are located will provide leadership, staff, power and water supply as well as other resources they will require to function,” he said.
The official said that the NCDC had the mandate to lead the coordination of public health laboratories by ensuring standardisation of testing methods, quality assurance, supply chain management as well as supporting preventive and corrective maintenance.
The NCDC boss said the National Reference Laboratory was working toward full accreditation to serve as a reference laboratory for yellow fever.
“Three years ago, this place was just an empty building, but today, a lot has been put in place and we hope to replicate this capacity across the country.
“We are committed to strengthening our engagement with the media and using their platforms to communicate better with Nigerians,” he said.
He recalled that in 2017, Nigeria recorded an outbreak of yellow fever in Kwara, 21 years after the last case had been detected in the country.
“Since then, we have continued to record clusters of cases across the country
“Also in 2019, we recorded a high incidence of measles cases across the country, especially in Borno State in the North East.
“Prior to 2019, we had only four laboratories in the national yellow fever, measles and rubella laboratory network located at Maitama District Hospital, FCT, Yusuf Dansoho Memorial Hospital, Kaduna, Central Public Health Laboratory, Lagos and Gombe Specialist Hospital.
“There was no laboratory in the South-East and South-South with this capacity, putting a strain on other regions,” he recalled.
He said to build Nigeria’s capacity in line with global standards, NCDC, with support from its partners, included the three new laboratories in the national network as part of the global laboratory network.
“The support we provide to these laboratories is in partnership with the World Health Organisation, Resolve to Save Lives, US Centres for Disease Control, GAVI, and others.
“At the national level, we have continued to work closely with our sister agencies like the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), and the National Arbovirus and Vector Research Centre (NAVRC), toward the prevention of and response to yellow fever outbreaks,” he said.
Chief Medical Director, UBTH, Darlington Obaseki, in a remark, pledged commitment to ensuring that the required leadership and resources were provided to ensure full functionality of the laboratory.
Also speaking, UNTH representative, Chioma Benjamin-Puja, an Assistant Director, Medical Laboratory Services, said the institution had advocated inclusion for a long period of time given the incidence of yellow fever in some parts of the South-East.
“The new laboratory for the South-East will greatly reduce turnaround time for testing of sample and eliminating time spent in sending samples to Lagos or FCT.
“We are very grateful for this opportunity and express our full and strong commitment to ensure that the laboratory serves its purpose,” she said.