NIGERIA – The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has inaugurated its first-ever Zonal Reference Laboratory aimed at strengthening the country’s diagnostic capacity.

NCDC Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, stated that the laboratory was built in collaboration with the Ekiti Government, with funding from the World Bank’s Pandemic Emergency Financing facility through the Nigeria COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Project.

Adetifa said the agency was mandated by law to develop a network of highly specialised reference laboratories across the nation to contribute to national health security.

The NCDC boss said that the establishment of the laboratory was aligned with the country’s obligations under the International Health Regulations -(IHR) 2005, and recommendations from the 2017 Joint External Evaluation (JEE).

“The NCDC’s implementation of its tiered laboratory network is intended to establish an effective network of testing laboratories for diseases of public health importance,” he added.

“The ZRLs will bring services closer to states, facilitate sample transportation, reduce turnaround time for testing and release of results, and contribute to resilience in emergency and preparedness efforts at the subnational level.”

According to Adetifa, the newly inaugurated Ekiti ZRL would strengthen diagnosis and surveillance of infectious diseases, with particular focus on the six states in the South-West, namely Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Lagos and Ogun, and the whole of southern Nigeria.

The laboratory is equipped to diagnose priority diseases as part of the Centre’s Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) system.

“The laboratory will be the primary hub for timely and accurate diagnosis of epidemic and epidemic-prone diseases constituting public health threats in the South-west,” he said.

The NCDC boss said the centre had successfully designated and commenced the establishment of more Zonal Reference Laboratories across the six geopolitical zones, which were at various stages of completion.

“This is part of efforts to take forward lessons learnt from the global COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the country,” he said.

Adetifa said the laboratories, when completed, would contribute to outbreak preparedness and response and provide a wider geographic diagnostic coverage.

The laboratories would also support the implementation of quality management systems, including national and international accreditation of laboratories in NCDC’s network.

216 confirmed diphtheria cases

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) reported in an update on the diphtheria situation that 523 suspected, 216 confirmed diphtheria cases and 38 deaths have been reported from May 2022 through January 2023.

Eighty-five percent of the confirmed cases occurred among children aged 2 – 14 years. Of the confirmed cases, 40 deaths have been reported.

Only 27 (12.5%) out of 216 confirmed cases were fully vaccinated with a diphtheria toxin-containing vaccine.

The country’s southwest state of Lagos reported two confirmed cases with two deaths, the northeast state of Yobe with two confirmed cases and no death, and the southwest state of Osun with one confirmed case and no death, said the report.

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