Establishing quality assured (QA) laboratory support for onchocerciasis elimination in Africa.

Shott J, Ducker C, Unnasch TR, Mackenzie CD

An essential component in achieving accepted successful elimination of a disease or a pathogen involves the acquisition of quality-assured (QA) data that ultimately define the absence of infection or transmission in previously endemic areas. The acquisition of these essential data, in the case of onchocerciasis elimination, requires strong laboratory support for both testing and continuing evaluation/validation of the tools used for the required diagnostic and epidemiology procedures. There is also a need for standardization of the laboratory-based and field-based assays used across the onchocerciasis-endemic countries as well as continuing technical, fiscal and logistical support for laboratory activities. To achieve these needs, it is proposed to build on the existing onchocerciasis programme laboratory activities in the endemic areas by expanding these to include additional laboratories as referral services organized on a regional basis to support the needs of endemic countries. Included in these plans are the development of quality assurance mechanisms, supply chain procedures and standardization of protocols for the basic assays needed for both national onchocerciasis elimination programme surveys and supporting research activities. Such an entity could then include quality-assured testing for other neglected tropical diseases.