Scientists to meet in Accra to deliberate on combating infectious diseases

Scientists are to meet in Accra to deliberate on ways to strengthen West Africa's diagnostic and research environment to combat infectious diseases.

The long term impact of COVID-19 patients treatment on the fight against drug resistance in West Africa is one of the many issues that will engage the attention of West African scientists when they converge in Accra, Ghana, from 21st to 22nd April for CelebrateLAB West Africa 2021 Conference.

With no known treatment for COVID-19, antibiotics are used globally in patients’ management, even where there is no confirmed co-infection requiring antibiotics  leading to increasing rate of antibiotics prescribing in many healthcare settings.

The 7th annual meeting of laboratory scientists, researchers, clinicians, regulators, policy makers and other players in the health care team, will place emphasis on how stronger health laboratory systems in the sub region will help prevent emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. Convened by Africabio Enterprises, Inc., the Accra Conference is being organized in partnership with the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists and co-hosted by the Ghana Health Service and Akai House Medical Laboratory, and other partners.

Researchers have been sounding the alarm on the likely long-term impact of wide spread and indiscriminate use of antibiotics since the pandemic, with many experts concerned that Africa, already burdened with Antimicrobial Resistance or AMR, will be most impacted.

“Building a laboratory capacity for microbiology culture and antimicrobial susceptibility testing for patient management is crucial in fighting AMR in developing countries,” states Dr. Kassaye Tekie Desta, Diagnostic Network Advisor, Infectious Disease Detection and Surveillance (IDDS) in Liberia.

“Diagnostic stewardship is the cornerstone of antimicrobial stewardship programs,” adds Dr. Desta, who will be presenting at the conference session on: “Global Health Security Agenda and Clinical Best Practices in West Africa.”

Scientists fear that progress made in the fight against drug resistance in West Africa could be derailed as a result of the pandemic. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, drug resistance has been on top of the global health security agenda and had been blamed for the dramatic increase in the costs of fighting tuberculosis (TB) and malaria, and other childhood infectious diseases; due to over prescribing and lack of policies, resulting in antibiotics abuse in the sub-region.

Under the theme: “Combating Emerging and Re-Emerging Infections through Standardization of Laboratory Practice across West Africa,” the meeting, among other issues, will deliberate on how to balance COVID-19 pandemic response while protecting public health gains in laboratory diagnosis of HIV, TB, and Malaria.

Health Laboratories play vital roles in disease surveillance and mitigation of outbreaks. Improving standards in laboratory diagnosis in the sub-region, experts say, will significantly impact health outcomes in West Africa.

“There are numerous gaps within the medical Laboratory value chain in the sub-region. The gaps offer opportunities for scientists and governments to start thinking about creating policies and legislations around the laboratory value chain to create value for service users,” notes Dr. Anthony Laud Basing, Consultant Medical Laboratory Scientist and Lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University Science Technology, Ghana, who will be leading a session on “Creating and Sustaining the Value Chain in the Health Laboratory Industry.”

Dr Basing who is also the CEO of Incas Diagnostics, a company that is focused on developing simple test kits for diagnosis of infectious diseases that largely impact women and children in Africa, added that “African governments must invest in research and local production of diagnostics devices in order to ensure that the supply chain challenges experienced at beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t recur in future pandemic.”

With negligible local manufacturing, Africa’s health sector was affected at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when, the world-wide medical supply chain was disrupted. It is a wakeup call for the region to invest in local manufacturing of devices and other supplies instead of over reliance on donor support.

The West African Laboratory Scientists and researchers will also, among other things, share experiences and best practices on the benefits of “Creating Standards in laboratory practice across the West Africa region,” and examine the issue of “Biological and Hazardous Waste Management in the Era of COVID-19.”