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Uganda Virus Research Institute



EPI Laboratory/ Immunisable diseases Unit

  • The EPI laboratory was designated WHO-Inter-country polio laboratory in 1996 and a WHO Measles and Rubella Regional Reference Laboratory in 2000.
  • It is a WHO accredited laboratory to perform Polio diagnostics in stool and environmental samples from the  countries served. The laboratory carries out virus isolation in tissue culture, virus identification using Realtime PCR and virus characterization.  Those virus isolates that require further analysis are shipped to National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), in Johannesburg, South Africa for sequencing.
  • As a National Measles laboratory, it supports UNEPI by confirming clinical diagnosis, confirming reported suspected measles/rubella outbreaks and the programme uses this information to guide on appropriate response.
  • As a WHO Measles /Rubella Regional Reference Laboratory, it serves Comoros, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and the Republic of South Sudan in areas of quality control and training among others. It also distributes testing kits and proficiency panels to the national laboratories as well as providing technical support. The laboratory carries out measles and rubella virus isolation and characterization for the national measles laboratories served that do not have the capacity to do so. Under this role, the laboratory provides information on the circulating measles and rubella virus strains responsible for the outbreaks. The laboratory also carries out research on measles and rubella viruses  and provides technical advice to WHO.


General Objective:

  • To carry out surveillance and research on vaccine preventable diseases

Specific Objectives:

  1. To support laboratory backed surveillance of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) in  Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
  2. To carry out Environmental surveillance of Polio in Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan
  3. To carry out measles and rubella surveillance in support of the Uganda National Expanded program for Immunisation (UNEPI).
  4. To carry out research on vaccine preventable diseases
  5. To function as both a WHO National and Regional Measles/Rubella Reference Laboratory.

Other activities in support of UNEPI

    • Training of peripheral health workers in disease surveillance (sample collection, storage and transportation to the laboratory)
    • Support supervision of surveillance and immunization activities
    • Outbreak investigations in the field
    • Operational Research

The laboratory is also represented on the following committees:

  • Measles Committees
  • The National Measles Verification Committee
  • Polio Committees
  • The National Coordinating Committee(NCC)
  • The National Task Force for Polio Laboratory Containment
  • Secretariat, National Polio Expert Committee

Previous Research

  • Molecular Epidemiology of rotaviruses in Uganda: Human and animal
  • Transmission of Rotaviruses in Uganda, including zoonotic transmission
  • Evaluation of use of Oralight device in the collection of oral fluid sample for measles and rubella surveillance
  • Evaluation of use of other samples (oral fluid and blood spots/filter paper spots) other than serum for surveillance of measles
  • Excretion of measles virus in HIV patients
  • Sero- prevelance of Rubella among pregnant women attending antenatal care in Mulago
  • Survey of wild poliovirus among healthy children staying in Poor sanitation areas in Kampala
  • Research on causes of Febrile rash like illnesses other than measles
  • Acute Febrile Ilnesses and Climate Change

Ongoing Research work

  • Evaluation of Antigen COVID 19 Rapid Diagnostic Tests
  • Monitoring of circulating measles and rubella virus genotypes in Uganda
  • Evaluation of feasibility and usability of Measles IgM point of care in the surveillance program
  • Genetic characterization of the measles viral genome obtained from vaccinated individuals in Uganda
  • Whole genome sequencing of enteroviruses from Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) patients in Uganda
  • Does recombination of polioviruses with locally circulating enteroviruses play a role in Acute Flaccid Paralysis and Vaccine Derived Polioviruses?
  • Sabin Polio 1 and 3 VP1 evolution among acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) cases in Uganda.

Achievements :

  • The lab has maintained WHO accreditation status for measles and polio laboratories over years
  • Ability to alert the country on VDPV2 outbreaks through environmental surveillance despite absence among AFP cases. The same is true for Republic of South Sudan including among AFP cases.
  • Successful establishment of environmental surveillance of poliovirus to supplement to AFP surveillance.
  • Ability of laboratory to confirm or rule out reported suspected outbreaks of measles and or rubella to guide appropriate response
  • Successful establishment of congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) sentinel site surveillance at Mulago National Referral hospital and expansion to Regional hospitals to monitor the disease trends in the country.
  • The EPI laboratory carries out research on vaccine preventable diseases in various areas including: basic science, epidemiological and operational research. EPI Laboratory has researched on enteroviruses (includes Polio), Measles, Rubella, Rotavirus, Hepatitis and febrile illnesses with rashes. Information obtained is used by Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation for practice and policy making.


  • The laboratory has twenty-three staffs that include both scientific and non-scientific.

Activities are supported by:

  • Ministry of Health
  •  World Health Organisation
  • CDC Atlanta


  • Arbovirology Department at UVRI
  • Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute & London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Uganda Research Unit
  • Public Health England,UK
  • University of Glassgow
  • WHO
  • CDC