Recent Activities - 2018

NRL Training: Improving the Quality of HIV Testing Services in Myanmar

In December 2013, the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board called on UNAIDS to support country- and region-led efforts to establish new targets for HIV treatment in an effort to address the global AIDs epidemic1.  A set of goals were established to address and enhance universal testing and treating of HIV based on the 90-90-90 concept;

  • By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.

  • By 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.

  • By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression1

In an effort to attain the UN 90-90-90 goals, Myanmar are decentralising HIV testing as a means to deliver improved testing services to key populations, many of whom remain undiagnosed.  

ASLM 2018

In December 2018, NRL staff members, Wayne Dimech and Liza Cabuang attended the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) meeting In Abuja, Nigeria.  NRL is pleased to have participated in each of the previous three ASLM meetings in Capetown, South Africa over the past years.  The ASLM meeting brings together laboratory scientists, clinicians and quality managers from the entire African continent and has grown in strength of purpose since its inception, working toward laboratory strengthening and to improve local access to world-class diagnostic services so as to ensure healthy African communities now and for the long-term.

NRL is redesignated as a WHO Collaborating Centre

NRL has been designated as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Diagnostics and Laboratory Support for HIV/AIDS and Other Blood-borne Infections since 1985 and in November 2018, was again redesignated as a Collaborating Centre until 2022. NRL’s work supports WHO’s mission to improve the quality and safety of medicines and other health technologies through standards and guidelines, strengthening of regulatory systems, and prequalification of reagents. NRL indirectly supports WHO’s programmes to manage and administer access to medicines and other health technologies and the strengthening of regulatory capacity.

WPRO Third Forum for WHO Collaborating Centres in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

In November 2018, NRL Director Dr Philippa Hetzel participated in the WPRO Third Forum for WHO Collaborating Centres  which included a variety of field visits, country specific sessions and sessions relevant to each collaborating centre’s area of expertise. The forum provided the opportunity to learn, understand and share knowledge; and to establish new relationships with collaborating centre delegates from across the Western Pacific region while renewing friendships with WHO personnel and established WHO collaborating centre colleagues.

Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis in Malaysia

Malaysia is the first country in the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region to be granted this certification which is an excellent achievement. Antenatal screening for HIV was introduced in 1998 in Malaysia making that country an early adopter (globally) of the national prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis in maternal and child health services1. Due to substantial efforts over the last two decades, the number of babies born with HIV or syphilis in Malaysia has now been reduced to a level compatible with the global elimination criteria. Given treatment following mother-to-child-transmission is not 100% effective, prevention of transmission is recognised as being an effective approach to combat increasing infection rates.

NRL Training: Addressing the HIV Epidemic in Myanmar

In 2017, it was reported that there were 220,000 people living with HIV in Myanmar1. From 2010-2017, there have been sustained and focused efforts targeting key populations to reduce HIV incidence however despite a general decline in new HIV infections across Asia, there has been a rising epidemic of HIV in places such as Myanmar where funding of effective primary HIV prevention has been insufficient2.  Myanmar is now one of 35 countries which together account for 90% of new HIV infections globally2

HTLV-1 Collaborative Forum in Central Australia

On August 28 and 29, NRL Director Dr Pip Hetzel and Kim Wilson attended a Collaborative Forum on HTLV-1 in Alice Springs convened by the Central Australian Academic Health Sciences Centre and the Australian Government Chief Medical Officer. The forum included Aboriginal leaders, community and patient representatives, researchers, representatives from Aboriginal community-controlled health services, clinicians, public health officials, and representatives from Commonwealth and state and territory health departments.

WHO Prequalification of In-vitro Diagnostics Program to include Syphilis Rapid Diagnostic Tests

Congenital Syphilis is the second leading cause of still births globally. Syphilis Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) are recommended in the WHO guidelines for syphilis screening and treatment of pregnant women.  As a result Syphilis RDTs will be assessed based on safety, quality and performance for inclusion on the WHO list of prequalified in vitro diagnostic (IVD) products.

Quality Improvement of Laboratory Services for Viral Hepatitis in the Western Pacific Region

The World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) is working with Collaborating Centres, including NRL, to establish a network of regional reference laboratories for hepatitis testing in the Western Pacific Region. 

Introducing the QConnect concept to China

NRL staff member Wayne Dimech was invited to attend the Chongqing Blood Transfusion ChLIA Workshop in Chongqing, China to present on QConnect and its utilisation in monitoring Quality Control (QC) results. The Workshop was devised to showcase various aspects regarding the implementation of chemiluminescent immunoassay (ChLIA) technology into blood screening laboratories across China. This included traceability of QCs as many laboratories still rely on traditional methods for monitoring QC results such as Westgard Rules historically introduced for biochemistry and not applicable to infectious diseases testing.

Laboratory Quality Management Systems in Timor-Leste

NRL was requested by the World Health Organization (WHO) South East Asian Regional Office (SEARO) to support and enhance the short and long term plans for strengthening Laboratory Quality Management Systems (LQMS) at the National Health Laboratory (NHL) in Dili, Timor-Leste.

Celebration of St. Vincent's Institute of Medical Research 60th Anniversary

St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research (SVI) has been the host institution for NRL since 1998 and it was with much pleasure that NRL staff took part in recent celebrations for its 60th Anniversary. On Monday 23 April, the Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria, hosted SVI at Government House for a celebratory occasion. NRL staff enjoyed a wonderful night and welcomed the opportunity to help celebrate this event with SVI.

Abbott Transfusion Medicine - Leading Through Transformation "Raising Blood Safety Standards to the Next Level" 2018 (Hyderabad) India

NRL QC Team Leader Joe Vincini was invited to present at the Abbott Transfusion Medicine “Leading through Transformation” meeting series, held in Hyderabad, India on 6 April.  Meeting attendees included key opinion leaders and heads/deputy heads of transfusion medicine services; and blood banks in India.  The title of Joe’s presentation was “Transfusion Transmitted Infections (TTIs) Screening Laboratories and Quality Assurance”. 

NRL EQAS Workshop in Vietnam

From the 14 -15 March, NRL staff members, Susie Braniff and Wayne Dimech travelled to Ho Chi Min City on behalf of Roche Vietnam to conduct a meeting for external quality assurance scheme (EQAS) participants.  As part of their commitment to quality, Roche Vietnam support Vietnamese laboratories to participate in a range of NRL EQAS. This workshop was designed to provide additional information to participants so they can gain greater value from their involvement. Over the course of the programme, Susie and Wayne explained the report format, evaluation process and reviewed a summary of results reported by the participants over the past two years. 

Training in Myanmar

As part of NRL's sub-contract with the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), NRL undertook two visits to deliver training workshops and conduct meetings in Myanmar.  These project activities were funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through a Cooperative Agreement between ASCP and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Capacity Building Training on In-vitro Diagnostic Medical Device Evaluation in the Philippines

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in the Philippines participated in training conducted by NRL on in-vitro diagnostic medical device (IVD MD) evaluation establishment, management and operations. According to the ASEAN Medical Device Directive, National Authorities of each ASEAN country are tasked to evaluate IVD MDs as part of pre-market and post-market regulations.  In the Philippines, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is tasking the National Reference Laboratories to perform the IVD MD evaluation. Susie Braniff from NRL facilitated a four day training workshop in Manila between 6 – and  9  February for 26 staff involved in the national IVD evaluations programme.

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NRL is designated a WHO Collaborating Centre for Diagnostics and Laboratory Support for HIV and AIDS and Other Blood-borne Infections