Gaborone, Botswana

Botswana and UK successfully conclude a Laboratory Twinning Project on Avian Influenza and Newcastle Disease

The Botswana National Veterinary Laboratory (BVNL) hosted the Animal Health Veterinary Laboratory Agency (AHVLA) during the OIE Twinning of Laboratories on (Notifiable) Avian Influenza / Newcastle Disease Project closure meeting in Gaborone, Botswana.

The meeting was preceded by a technical inspection tour of the laboratory by the experts, project focal points and the Chairman of SADC Veterinary Laboratories Sub Committee.  The tour included some practical demonstration of conventional virus characterisation.  This is another milestone for Botswana as BNVL was recently recognised by the OIE as a Reference Laboratory for CBPP.

The focus of the meeting was to clarify the role of BNVL with regards to NAI / ND since BNVL was established as a service/support laboratory for NAI/ND diagnosis in the sub-region (by decision by the SADC Livestock Technical Committee meeting of 2007). The OIE Twinning of Laboratories Project started in February 2009 to establish BNVL as regional centre for NAI and ND diagnosis. Specific objectives were to develop capability to conduct virus characterisation and confirm viral diseases (NAI, ND), production of key diagnostic reagents, ensure Good Laboratory Practices / Quality Management Systems, develop and implement a laboratory contingency plan for NAI and ND, carry out virus exchange between BNVL and AHVLA and to develop capacity to conduct epidemiological surveys of NAI and ND.

The meeting discussed various topics presented by the experts and project focal points from AHVLA and BNVL, the Chairman of the SADC Veterinary Laboratories Sub Committee, heads of the various sections of BNVL and various scientists. The OIE Sub-Regional Representative conducted the official opening of the meeting during which the impact of the OIE Twinning Programme was mentioned amongst other achievements of the BNVL. Though the global and national animal health status regarding NAI has decreased with fewer outbreaks than during the peak years, countries still need to be prepared to deal with the risk as highly pathogenic strains of AI and ND have a big impact on food security. Therefore capacity building for NAI and ND diagnosis at BNVL was justified, and the laboratory was tasked to develop, amongst others, a contingency plan and conduct simulation exercises to respond effectively to disease outbreaks.

 

Group picture. Picture © Ibo Makhumalo (MOA Botswana) 2013.

"Before the Twinning Project, BNVL did not have capacity for molecular diagnostic tests for AI and ND and we could not conduct full antibody typing by HI and NI tests and for ND with monoclonal antibodies, therefore the Twinning Project has vastly improved our diagnostic capacity"

Dr. K Moagabo, National Project Focal Point

This was reiterated by the Director of Veterinary Services and OIE Delegate Dr. L. Modisa who also pledged support to BNVL and pointed out that provision of services by BNVL to the region will need additional financial resources. Dr. Modisa acknowledged the support the laboratory obtained from the OIE and other partners such as FAO, IAEA, EU, USAID and AU-IBAR and said that in its future planning, BNVL should consider how to attract donor support for this critical activity. This support included supply of laboratory equipment, reagents and staff training.

The Chairman of the SADC Veterinary Laboratories Sub Committee, FAO Representatives and the OIE Representative also pledged support to work with BNVL to attract donor support. However it was emphasised that support of this regional initiative should continue to be led by SADC.

“AHVLA will continue the strong relationship and technical support including collaboration on research with BNVL as this is important for both laboratories” said Professor Ian Brown, Designated Expert of the OIE Reference Laboratory for AI/ND at AHVLA (UK) during his presentation of the mandate of the Reference Laboratories.

Dr. C. Marobela-Raborokgwe, Designated Expert of the OIE Reference Laboratory for CBPP and Head of the BNVL stressed that what they leant from the Africa Region – Twinning of Laboratories Feedback meeting held in Johannesburg in 2012 worked for them as she listed the benefits, which include staff training on proficiency testing, contingency planning, quality management and good laboratory practices. She was confident that BNVL will work closely with AHVLA and SADC laboratories so that expectations from each partner will be shared to avoid any dissatisfaction.

All pictures © Ibo Makhumalo (MOA Botswana) 2013, except where mentioned otherwise

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