Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Ja fully equipped for ZikV testing

Published:Monday | March 14, 2016 | 3:00 AM

Jamaica no longer has to send samples overseas to test for suspected cases of the Zika virus (ZikV).

This as the National Virology Reference Laboratory, housed at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), is now fully equipped to test for viral infections.

The new status follows upgrading work undertaken at a cost of $10 million. The improvements have also provided increased capacity for the testing of dengue and chikungunya.

Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton, who toured the facilities on Friday, said the improvement work undertaken has significantly reduced turnaround time for test results of suspected viral infections.

"With these new facilities, the turnaround time could be anywhere from a few days to a week, depending on what you are testing for," he said.

Testing of influenza A (H1N1) has been ongoing at the facility. A total of 46 cases of the virus have been detected in Jamaica to date.

The UWI virology laboratory is the only one that offers viral culture and houses the National Influenza Centre for the island.

It is a full-service laboratory that performs a range of diagnostic services for the detection and monitoring of a wide variety of viral infections.

These include respiratory infections such as influenza, rubella, and measles; central nervous system infections such as poliovirus and herpes simplex; sexually transmitted infections; and gastrointestinal infections.

The lab was upgraded through resources from the National Health Fund with support from the Pan American Health Organization and the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education Fund.

It is now equipped with a state-of-the-art real-time thermal cycler that has the capacity to test 96 samples and controls within two hours. This machine is also capable of testing multiple pathogens in one sample.