Ghana’ renowned medical research Institute, NOGUCHI has given a resounding assurance of its readiness to fighting the ebola scourge.
“We were ready even before the first ebola case was recorded in West Africa, says officials of the Memorial Institute who played host to a delegation led by the Health Minister and some journalists.
The Institute established in 1979 in collaboration with Japan had only recently received resources from its Japanese counterparts to help improve upon its research activities.
Over the years NOGUCHI has conducted a lot of research into many different kinds of diseases, the causes, development, consequences and so on.
Apart from a similar facility in Dakar, Senegal, NOGOCHI serves the medical research needs of many of the West African countries.
A tour of the Institute is like a couple’s first day out on a date. It had to be meticulously planned, executed with a touch of anxiety running through.
Some three weeks ago, I visited the facility and I saw at first hand the P3 laboratory where ebola virus is tested (and other pathogens).
To enter the main building I had to take off my shoes and put on a pair made available at the lab. The shoes came in different sizes. It wasn’t difficult fitting in.
NOGUCHI officials say the practice is to ensure no impure foreign material is taken into the facility and whatever is in, remains there.
For other parts of the laboratory entry requirements include putting on a lab coat, gloves etc.
The anti-room, a high level pathogen lab is the main place where blood samples are tested for ebola and other diseases. It’s a negative pressured lab- meaning, whatever gaseous substance is kept there until after everything is sterilized.
Personnel, usually two, suit up completely (goggles, double gloves, nose mask etc) enter from one door, conduct the test and exit through another door.
Researchers also work in cubicles for purposes of safety which is crucial here.
Equipment at the facility is without any doubt, very expensive. In the anti-room, personnel look out for viral particles from samples brought in for testing.
Nana, an epidemiologist at Noguchi told me a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is run with manufactured positive control and negative control for ebola for instance.
Serum or plasma samples are extracted from the blood sample of suspected patients for the test.
The serum (for our purpose) is taken through an iron extraction to find viral particles (of ebola) or not.
During every reaction ran, there are a positive control and a negative control. If a serum tested is like the positive control (looking at the GNA) then the test for ebola is positive.
Often the tests are done in batches but in some occasions because of the urgency of a research, samples are tested in a single ran which is more expensive.
Results are then sent to the Director of the Institute, Prof Kojo Koram for him to announce.
It was the turn of the Health Minister and his entourage to tour the facility on Monday and once again I was present to together with the Director of the Ghana Health Service Dr Ebenezar Appiah-Denkyira and other officials.
The minster Dr Kweku Agyemang Mensah asked Ghanaians to trust the tests done by NOGUCHI.
Prof Koram also re-iterated the credibility of the institute on which many other countries in the sub-region rely on.
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