Enhancing National COVID-19 Diagnostic Support Capacity in Uganda

Lead Research Organisation: London Sch of Hygiene and Trop Medicine

Abstract

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Technical Summary

This award is being made in recognition that key Research Unit staff have been redeployed from their usual work, and Research Unit resources utilised, to contribute to the first phase of a rapid research response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current coronavirus pandemic is a novel challenge for healthcare systems worldwide. The virus is currently spreading at alarming rates in Asia, Europe and North America, and it is essential that African countries prepare for the arrival and local transmission of SARSCoV- 2 and develop effective response mechanism. The African MRC Units have a critical role to play in researching the epidemic but also in supporting local health systems in this response. In Uganda, diagnostic capacity is to our knowledge currently limited to the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI, Entebbe) and Central Public Health Laboratories (CPHL, Kampala). Given the rapid spread of the virus globally, there is a high risk the first positive cases will be detected in Uganda over the next few weeks. Lessons learnt from other countries suggest that the ability to rapidly diagnose SARS-CoV-2 positive samples is critical in controlling the pandemic. However, given the pace of virus spread seen in Asia, Europe and the US, the local diagnostic capacity will need to be increased substantially to handle the anticipated increase in suspected cases. The Unit has well-trained laboratory staff, robust procedures and excellent facilities which could support the national effort to prevent and contain an outbreak in Uganda. Support Capacity: The Unit intends to prepare for supporting the national diagnostic capacity by offering up to 2,500 tests per month over the next 4 months. Full virus genome sequences would be generated from a subset of positive samples, the resulting data would support the international effort in understanding the regional movement of the virus and would monitor for virus changes that might influence diagnostics or the pathology of the virus.

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