24 November 2017 | Geneva: The Global TB Programme of the World Health Organization (WHO) is pleased to announce and congratulate the newest member of the WHO TB Supranational Reference Laboratory (SRL) Network – the National TB Reference Laboratory in Cotonou, Benin.
The Benin laboratory is now the third SRL in the African region and has already commenced supporting other TB laboratories in Africa, where a huge demand for TB laboratory capacity strengthening remains. The Benin SRL is expected to form a consortium with other SRLs working in Central and Western Africa to build strong regional TB laboratories and laboratory networks.
“TB laboratory services have changed dramatically over the last 10 years” said Dr Karin Weyer, Coordinator at the WHO Global TB Programme. “New TB diagnostics recommended by WHO, major investment by donors and increasing recognition of the importance of reliable diagnosis of TB and drug-resistant TB are driving this change, with the SRL Network serving as the backbone for building and strengthening the capacity of laboratories across the world. We welcome the addition of the Benin laboratory to the network."
The Benin laboratory has been a candidate-SRL for the past few years and was recently evaluated for full SRL membership status. Its contemporary containment infrastructure, well-trained and committed staff, strong links with the TB laboratory network in Benin and the ability to provide support to reference laboratories in other countries earned it full SRL status, also serving as a model to other countries in Africa.
WHO acknowledges the hard work and commitment of Dr Dissou Affolabi and his team as well as their dedicated partners who helped this candidate-SRL to reach full membership status. One key partner has been Dr Armand van Deun of the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium, who mentored the Benin laboratory over the past five years.
The WHO TB SRL Network continues to be a key technical resource for strengthening of laboratory capacity in countries. The network was established in 1994, initially to ensure the quality of TB drug resistance surveys. With WHO coordination and support during the last 23 years, the SRL Network has expanded both its scope of work and its reach into countries, from an initial 14 SRLs to 32 SRLs (with the inclusion of Benin) and four National Centres of Excellence in large countries supporting their own laboratory networks.
The SRLs continue to support the WHO global TB drug resistance surveillance project, as well as lead the introduction of new TB diagnostics at country level and provide technical leadership to countries in building their laboratory capacity.
“The timing is also right to expand the activities of the TB SRL Network to other diseases”, said Dr Weyer. “With adequate financial support, the SRL Network could, for example, become a resource for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) surveillance or for surveillance of HIV drug resistance, thereby contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals for universal health coverage.”