An initiative to boost yellow fever diagnostic capacity across Africa has ‘revolutionised’ diagnostics on the continent, one of the programme’s coordinating agencies, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said today.
The initiative is part of the implementation of the Eliminate Yellow Fever Epidemics (EYE) strategy and brings together different partners including WHO, UNICEF, CDC, the Institut Pasteur Dakar, Centre Pasteur Cameroon, and the Uganda Virus Research Institute. The diagnostic capacity initiative has made significant progress since its launch in 2018:
- The number of laboratories able to confirm yellow fever samples on the continent has risen from one, in Senegal, to four, with Nigeria, Cameroon and Uganda now able to definitively determine if someone has yellow fever, particularly early in the course of illness. This laboratory network has helped save nearly US$ 2 million in unnecessary spending by correctly identifying disease cases and allowing public health authorities to make timely decisions that minimise waste. In addition, data from this network has driven country decisions to protect their populations against this fever in the long term, such as Uganda’s decision in 2020 to introduce the vaccine into routine immunisation.
- Chronic shortages of laboratory supplies that impeded timely yellow fever testing have been resolved by the establishment of testing bundles that can be readily ordered by national laboratories. The average time for national laboratories to complete the testing of samples initially positive for yellow fever confirming whether a new outbreak has started or an existing one has expanded, has declined by 70%, from over three and a half months in 2017 to 39 days in 2020.
- A new commercial PCR test kit validated by the EYE laboratory technical working group is now available for use in national laboratories that are part of the WHO yellow fever laboratory network.