It is said that prior planning prevents poor performance, so we were pleased to be joined in Liverpool by our colleague Jaco Verweij who is supporting the qPCR workshop which will take place in Ghana later in the month. As head of the clinical molecular diagnostics facility at Tilburg, Dr Verweij has developed an automated laboratory system that is capable of processing 100,000 samples a year with 45 multiplex DNA assays targeting a wide range of pathogens from multiple sample sources from blood to faecal.
As well as leading this state of the art molecular lab in the Netherlands he shares the same vision as COUNTDOWN, in terms of the need to scale up capacity in the Africa region. During molecular workshops in Africa, he helped others to specialise in the use of Taqman® multiplex assays to identify some of the more damaging worm infections: from schistosomiasis to soil-transmitted helminthiasis. With a higher diagnostic specificity and sensitivity than traditional parasitological methods these Taqman® assays use real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) platforms. Adopting these methods allows for the development of a more detailed and accurate epidemiological picture several worm infections, strongyloidiasis in particular.
At the Ghana workshop a series of seminars and laboratory work will give the participants the skills and background knowledge to carry out faecal DNA extraction, qPCR, and the subsequent analysis of the results. The workshop will lay the ground work in skills development for the subsequent COUNTDOWN milestones for both the filariasis and helminth work as well as providing the skilled staff at the Global Polio Laboratory Network and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research with the opportunity to increase their diagnostic horizons. We look forward to an exciting and productive trip that will sow the seeds for future work in the country.