Original Research

A report on preparation, expansion and future outlook of COVID-19 testing in Gambia

Ousman Secka, Eniyou C. Oriero, Sheikh Jarju, Aminata Vilane, Natalie Hofmann, Mamadou Ousmane Ndiath, Davis Nwakanma
Journal of Public Health in Africa | Vol 13, No 3 | a462 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4081/jphia.2022.1616 | © 2024 Ousman Secka, Eniyou C. Oriero, Sheikh Jarju, Aminata Vilane, Natalie Hofmann, Mamadou Ousmane Ndiath, Davis Nwakanma | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 April 2024 | Published: 07 September 2022

About the author(s)

Ousman Secka, Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at LSHTM, Atlantic Road, Fajara, Gambia
Eniyou C. Oriero, Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at LSHTM, Atlantic Road, Fajara, Gambia
Sheikh Jarju, Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at LSHTM, Atlantic Road, Fajara, Gambia
Aminata Vilane, Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at LSHTM, Atlantic Road, Fajara, Gambia
Natalie Hofmann, Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at LSHTM, Atlantic Road, Fajara, Gambia
Mamadou Ousmane Ndiath, Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at LSHTM, Atlantic Road, Fajara, Gambia
Davis Nwakanma,, Gambia

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Abstract

Background: The outbreak of COVID-19 disease and rapid spread of the virus outside China led to its declaration as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in January 2020. Key elements of the early intervention strategy focused on laboratory diagnosis and screening at points of entry and imposition of restrictions in crossborder activities.

Objective: We report the role the Medical Research Council Unit, The Gambia (MRCG) played in the early implementation of molecular testing for COVID-19 in The Gambia as part of the national outbreak response.

Methods:  Laboratory staff members, with experience in molecular biology assays, were identified and trained on COVID-19 testing at the Africa CDC training workshop in Dakar, Senegal. Thereafter risks assessments, drafting of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and inhouse training enabled commencement of testing using commercial RTPCR kits. Subsequently, testing was expanded to the National Public Health Laboratroy and also implemented across field sites for rapid response across the country.

Results: Capacity for COVID-19 testing at MRCG was developed and can process approximately 350 tests per day, which can be further scaled up as the demand for testing increases.

Conclusion:  The long presence of the Unit in The Gambia and strong collaborative relationship with the National Health Ministry, allowed for a synergistc approach in mounting an effective response that contributed in delaying the establishment of community transmission in the country.


Keywords

COVID-19 testing; sub-Saharan Africa; Pandemic; SARS-CoV-2

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