As the regional reference laboratory, the CARPHA Medical Microbiology Laboratory (CMML) continues to conduct tests for suspected COVID-19 cases for 18 of its 26 Member States. Throughout the pandemic period CARPHA has been guiding laboratory action through science-based testing protocols based on the latest recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
CARPHA pledged to deliver results to the Chief Medical Officers within 24-48 hours of receipt of the specimens in February when testing commenced. To date, the number of samples with more than a 48 hour from reception at CARPHA and pending remain at zero. As of Tuesday, 11th August 2020 the number of samples tested totalled 13,815. None of the results of these samples have been delivered past 48 hours after receipt of the samples.
Backlogs and prolonged wait times can complicate efforts to reduce the spread of the virus. A delay in test results can mean a setback for public health authorities to decide on a course of action – to implement contact tracing, provide appropriate care and guidance, or to inform someone that they have not contracted the virus. CARPHA is determined not to delay the time it takes for people to get their results, and consequently, the CMML does not retain possession of backlogs in its facilities.
“CARPHA continues to adhere to good laboratory practices that produce accurate results. Our testing strategies and cadre of well-trained staff work to ensure that there is no backlog for tests or pending results. We know that timely reporting of laboratory results is important as it can make a difference to Member States,” said Dr Gabriel M. Gonzalez-Escobar, Head of Laboratory Services and Networks at CARPHA.
Dr Escobar further stated “The CMML remains committed to delivering prompt COVID-19 results to the Region. In the case of the COVID-19 laboratory emergency response, once a sample is received from a designated national public health laboratory, we issue the result within 24-48 hours.”
In June 2020, the CMML received a total of 3,250 samples, representing an average of more than 150 samples per business day. This represented the largest number of samples processed, and a notable achievement in the history of the organisation.
CARPHA’s COVID-19 response, particularly in the area of diagnostic testing, is currently being supported by its International Development Partners (IDPs) including the European Union (EU), World Bank (WB), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), and Agence Française de Développement (AFD).