Ugandan vet labs receive international accreditation

Animal Conservation
Ugandan vet labs receive international accreditation
A big leap for Uganda's wildlife conservation

This accreditation signifies a momentous achievement as it marks the first time Ugandan veterinary laboratories have garnered such prestigious recognition.

Mbale Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MVDL) and Uganda Wildlife Authority Diagnostic and Research Laboratory (UWADRL) have achieved international accreditation from the esteemed South African National Accreditation System (SANAS).

This accreditation, awarded under the International ISO/IEC 17025:2017 standard, signifies a momentous achievement as it marks the first time Ugandan veterinary laboratories have garnered such prestigious recognition.

Notably, UWADRL in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Mweya peninsula, becomes the pioneer wildlife laboratory in the entire East African region to attain this distinction.

Stakeholders say it is a groundbreaking development for Uganda's veterinary and wildlife sectors.

Gloria Akurut, of UWADRL, highlighted the significance of accreditation in bolstering confidence in laboratory services and fostering domestic and international partnerships.

Akurut emphasised the invaluable impact of accreditation on local farmers, particularly those residing near Queen Elizabeth National Park, who rely on diagnostic services provided by UWADRL.

Dr Philip Wakimweri, the director of MVDL, revealed a notable milestone in the laboratory's capabilities.

He disclosed that the laboratory has secured accreditation for diagnosing brucellosis and trypanosomiasis, key bacterial diseases affecting both livestock and humans.

Wakimweri articulated the laboratory's strategic vision to broaden its accreditation scope to encompass other prevalent diseases in the region, underscoring a proactive approach to addressing veterinary health challenges.

“We are next looking at culture and sensitivity amidst antimicrobial resistance,” he said.

Wakimweri said the accreditation serves as a benchmark for excellence and commitment to maintaining stringent quality standards necessary for accurate and reliable diagnostic services.

“We have standardised and become systematic in the way we do our work,” he said.

"This commitment not only benefits animal health but also has significant implications for public health and the livelihoods of farming communities in form of enhanced animal productivity."

Collaborative initiatives

Patrick Ogwork Agwa, the programme director of Laboratory Quality Assurance in the Ministry of Health, underscore the synergistic efforts to improve veterinary diangostics through the One Health Platform.

This platform brings together key health stakeholders from various ministries, including health, agriculture, water and environment, and UWA, to foster holistic health response encompassing human, environmental, and animal health.

Ogwork emphasized the significance of effective and efficient veterinary diagnostic in prevention of zoonotic diseases such as Ebola, brucellosis, anthrax, and the likes that affect both animals to humans.

“Uganda has tragically witnessed the highest number of Ebola outbreaks globally, totaling eight incidents with the initial outbreak claiming 2024 lives in 2000,” Ogwok said.

The Uganda National Institute of Public Health Quarterly Epidemiology Bulletin for October-December 2021 indicates that over 800 individuals tragically succumbed to the COVID-19 virus in Uganda during that year.

Funding deficit impedes veterinary diagnostics

Funding constraints continue to pose significant challenges for veterinary diagnostic services in Uganda.

Dr Wakimweri's impassioned plea for adequate funding to sustain accreditation which hinges on continuous assessment.

Regrettably, the laboratory faces a shortage of essential reagents vital for critical diagnostic procedures, such as culture and sensitivity, which is pivotal in detection of sub-clinical mastitis — an inflammatory condition primarily affecting the udder tissue in dairy animals in the sub-region.

Sub-clinical mastitis often presents as reduced milk production and is difficult for farmers to detect.

Dr Wakimweri expressed the frustration with lack of reagents, which impedes the laboratory's ability to conduct these crucial diagnostic tests.

Dr Susan Kerfua, a senior research assistant from the National Livestock Resources Research Institute, echoed similar concerns, stressing the urgent need for deliberate prioritisation of funding and the establishment of robust veterinary laboratory policies to streamline the field.

The event also marked the official close-out of the USAID Infectious Disease Detection and Surveillance (IDDS) project, which provided crucial technical support to both laboratories, facilitating their journey towards international accreditation.

The accreditation of two veterinary diagnostic laboratories adds to Uganda's impressive portfolio of accredited laboratories, which already includes 70 medical diagnostic facilities accredited to international standards.

Uganda is the second country on the African continent - South Africa - to boast a significant number of accredited labs.

The presentation of accreditation certificates to both laboratories during a ceremony at MVDL in Mbale City was attended by representatives from USAID, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, UWA, the Ministry of Health, local governments, and development partners.

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