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Uganda Virus Research Institute


UVRI selected by WHO as a reference lab for COVID-19

The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) has been accredited by the World Health Organization-WHO as one of the COVID-19 reference laboratories in Africa.

The laboratory which is spearheading COVID-19 testing in the country is one of eight laboratories that were accredited as reference laboratories across the continent. Other laboratories that were confirmed are from neighboring Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In West Africa, Senegal, Gabon, Nigeria and Ghana had laboratories that were accredited, and South Africa from Southern Africa. The WHO accreditation comes following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention accreditation that the laboratory was given earlier in the year.

Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu, the executive director of UVRI says the accreditation as a reference laboratory is proof of the quality testing that the laboratory has been carrying out regarding COVID-19. With the accreditation, neighboring countries with poor testing ability can now send their COVID-19 samples to the laboratory to be tested. In the past, cases of testing discrepancies had emerged within the East African community bloc. Prof. Kaleebu says that in such cases, the availability of more accredited laboratories will help settle such discrepancies. “In cases like that, countries can send their samples to us so that we can test them. Some of our main work will include testing complicated samples,” he added. With the WHO accreditation, the Entebbe based UVRI will be able to accredit more local laboratories to test for COVID-19. At the moment, 11 laboratories across the country are accredited to test for COVID-19. With the number of positive cases increasing, Prof. Kaleebu says the accreditation has come at the right time

Amidst complaints about discrepancies in the coronavirus (COVID-19) results offered at different accredited laboratories, the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) that supervises accredited labs in the country now requires any person that tests positive but with a low viral load to do a follow-up test later.

Referring to such a sample as border line, the UVRI executive director Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu said that the sample on the border line cut off will be withheld and a test repeated after two days to reduce the discrepancies. Some people claim to have received two different result slips, one indicating positive and the other negative whereas others claim to have taken two different samples on the same day and they gave different results. Proff Pontiano said that this was not unheard of, explaining that sometimes the challenges arise from the health worker not knowing how to effectively pick the swab and at times the timing of the test could be bad at a point where the virus is still too small or when it has died. Dr. Nabadda Ndidde, the executive director of Uganda National Public Health Laboratories said they had received complaints that some of the private accredited labs were using Rapid Diagnostics Tests (RDTs) to test for COVID-19, something that she said could be leading to wrong results.