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2017 Events


April 2017: The HMSTrust Biobank

NRL is proud of its partnership with St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research (SVI) in housing the HMSTrust biobank onsite. Recently, media outlets reported that SVI has launched a ‘Living Biobank’, to support research into diseases that affect Australians, including diabetes and cancer.

SVI’s recently established Living Biobank, and the HMSTrust Biobank was launched in 2015 and is a mechanism for research that can potentially lead to the prevention, treatment or cure of a disease in an individual.

Samples collected for the Living Biobank may be used immediately for research projects, or ‘banked’ and kept for longer-term storage in the HMSTrust Biobank.

The SVI Biobank Program is a partnership between SVI, NRL and St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne.

April 2017: Workshop on Hepatitis Strategic Information and Laboratory Capacity, Mongolia

The World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) aims to establish the first Regional Hepatitis Reference Laboratory Network based on existing networks for HIV, measles and rubella. WHO WPRO is also seeking to further develop disease surveillance mechanisms in the region.  To this end a Workshop organised by WHO, was held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and attended by 90 public and private laboratory staff and managers, clinicians, and epidemiologists. NRL was represented as one of the facilitators, along with medical, surveillance and laboratory staff from the Doherty Institute/Victorian Infectious Disease Reference Laboratory, US CDC, Korean CDC and the WHO.

To assist in the development of the Regional Hepatitis Reference Laboratory Network, NRL and VIDRL created a laboratory capacity survey and a self-assessment tool that were piloted at a workshop in Mongolia. Prior to the workshop a questionnaire, translated into Mongolian, was distributed by the WHO Country Office to public and private laboratories throughout the country.  The questionnaire was comprehensive and included questions relating to hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. It was comprised of 90 questions, many with sub-questions, reviewing the type of testing performed, participation in quality assessment schemes, testing  of quality control samples, presence of testing strategies, referral of samples and reporting of surveillance data.   The results of the survey were translated back to English and returned to the collaborating Australian laboratories for analysis. A second self-assessment tool was developed.  This tool had seven sections – laboratory organisation, specimen management, testing and process control, quality assurance, data management, reagent and equipment procurement and laboratory safety. Each section contained a series of points relating to the section’s topic.  The workshop participants rated each point from 1 to 4, where 1 was “not present/not available” and 4 was “complete and functional”. 

The results of the survey and the assessment tool identified gaps in the testing capacity. These gaps in laboratory capacity, along with recommended actions, were reported to the WHO regional office and the Mongolian Ministry of Health. Similar surveys and workshops will be conducted in other WPRO Member States. WPRO (and their collaborators) have committed to organise national workshops in 5 further high burden countries in the coming 12 months (China, Philippines, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia).

March 2017: NRL Training in Myanmar

In the first quarter of 2017, NRL was awarded two sub-contracts, which allowed the continuation of capacity development activities in Myanmar.  Both sub-contracts were funded by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One of the sub-contracts was between the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) and NRL.

The objectives of this project were to support the following:

(i) Supervision and monitoring of quality at decentralised HIV point-of-care testing sites in Myanmar, through the development of an assessment tool appropriate to the local context; and

(ii) Development of a standardised, national training plan for HIV testing services in Myanmar. 

Between 20-24 March 2017, Susie Braniff, Marlene Tschaepe and Geraldine Kong visited Yangon under the auspices of this ASLM-NRL sub-contract.  During the visit, NRL staff:

  • Conducted training for the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) National Health Laboratory (NHL), Yangon and 12 international non-governmental organisations in the use of an assessment tool adapted from the CDC Stepwise Process for Improving the Quality of HIV Rapid Testing (SPI-RT) Checklist, to suit the local context in Myanmar. 
  • Trialled the use of the assessment tool for suitability to the local context, through practical training sessions.
  • Undertook meetings with in-country partners and stakeholders to discuss operational and policy issues concerning the development of a standardised, national training plan for HIV testing services in Myanmar.

NRL would like to thank all partners and stakeholders, especially colleagues from NHL, National AIDS Program, as well as the Myanmar offices of CDC, Save the Children and ICAP at Columbia University, for their kind hospitality and contributions towards making the visit a successful and fruitful one. 

The second sub-contract was between the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and NRL.  The objective of this project was to support the implementation of the national HIV viral load scale-up plan in Myanmar. 

Between 20-31 March 2017, NRL staff member Liza Cabuang and Consultant Scientist Johanna Wapling visited Yangon under the auspices of the ASCP-NRL sub-contract.  During the visit, both team members:

  • Conducted technical training on HIV viral load testing for laboratory staff from the National Health Laboratory (NHL), Mandalay Public Health Laboratory, Mingalardon  Specialist Hospital and Magway General Hospital.
  • Undertook site visits and participated in meetings and discussions aimed at supporting the national HIV viral load scale-up plan for Myanmar. 

NRL would like to thank all partners and stakeholders, especially colleagues from NHL, National AIDS Program, and CDC Myanmar, for their kind hospitality and contributions towards the success of the visit

Myanmar March 2017

 ASCP Working Group

Myanmar March 2017

  ASLM Working Group