7 reference labs equipped in diagnosing VPDs
Photo caption: RITM trainers assisting the VPD RL trainee with serology procedures

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), spearheaded by the National Reference Laboratories of its Virology Department, concluded the first of its many essential capacity-building activities for the seven Vaccine Preventable Disease Referral Laboratories (VPD RL) last June 20-24, 2022 at the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC), Iloilo City.

Fourteen (14) medical technologists from the VPD RLs were trained on the different VPD serologic assays and its application. Each trainee was capacitated with the knowledge and skills to perform the assays necessary in detecting and confirming VPDs.

The five-day course covered lectures on global and local updates on VPDs, basic biosafety practices, troubleshooting techniques, data management, and quality assurance. Three days were allotted for intensive laboratory sessions involving enzyme immunoassays for Measles, Rubella, Japanese Encephalitis, and Rotavirus.  

“We have been aiming throughout the years to eliminate measles and rubella, and prevent and control Japanese encephalitis, and rotavirus. The establishment of the VPD Referral Laboratory Network is an essential component in the detection and confirmation of these VPDs,” said RITM Director Dr. Celia Carlos.

Currently, RITM is the sole laboratory in the country performing the tests for the detection and confirmation of these VPDs. Through the network, testing will be decentralized and will provide faster turnaround time for results which will enable a rapid and robust public health response. 

“Through this network, high-quality surveillance data will be generated. This will provide evidence in identifying outbreaks early and will be crucial for the implementation of vaccine introductions and outbreak response initiatives,” highlighted Dr. Carlos.

According to RITM National Measles Laboratory Head Ms. Leonibel Reyes, succeeding workshops are to be conducted in the respective laboratories of the seven VPD RLs, once they complete equipment installation and laboratory set-up by third quarter this year. All of these preparations will enable the VPD RLs to perform the testing independently and as soon as possible. This will also assure the accreditation of the VPD RLs by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2023.

The seven identified VPD RLs strategically located in different regions are the following: Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center (ITRMC), Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital (JBLMGH), Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC), Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC), Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC), Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), and the Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC).

WHO supported the establishment of the VPD RLs through its provision of over PHP36 million worth of laboratory equipment, reagents, and supplies granted last January 20, 2022.

by Allenor Enciso, Communication and Engagement Office