Accelerating biosafety and biosecurity in ECOWAS veterinary diagnostic laboratories
Accra – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), concluded today a five-day workshop to accelerate the adoption of a regional approach in the implementation of biosafety and biosecurity measures in laboratories, members of the ECOWAS Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Network (RESOLAB). The workshop contributed to the improvement of the application of biosafety measures in these veterinary laboratories to carry out the diagnosis of infectious animal diseases under satisfactory safety conditions for laboratory workers, humans, animals and their environment.
Veterinary diagnostic and research laboratories play a vital role in public health, animal disease diagnosis, surveillance, food safety and animal welfare. Potential hazards of the pathogens they handle or isolate may pose a risk to the environment, animal and public health, or may be misused for malicious purposes. Maximum safety measures should be applied in laboratory work to protect laboratory technicians, animals, as well as the environment. This involves assessing the risk generated by different manipulations using standardised procedures, and then applying appropriate measures to minimise the risks they pose. And yet, in many African countries, the capacity to deal with these threats lags.
Opening the workshop, Mr. Ahmed Garba, on behalf of the FAO’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) Regional Manager, noted that “the implementation of Biosafety measures requires constant efforts from veterinary laboratories. Thus, the importance of implementing the national roadmaps developed two years ago. He added that “FAO/ECTAD will make every effort to support RESOLAB labs to improve their conduction of BSS with the support of partners.”
Accelerating the implementation of biosecurity and biosafety
Veterinary laboratory biosafety and biosecurity and containment of infectious agents are receiving increasing attention, as most diseases caused by zoonotic agents are well known and preventable. Laboratory biosafety and biosecurity are important to ensure the safety of technicians and to protect the public from accidental or intentional exposure to infectious pathogens. To accelerate the implementation of biosecurity and biosafety measures and improve the management of these risks, FAO, with the support USAID through the Global Health Security Agenda is committed to strengthening the veterinary laboratory system capacities in Africa. They are helping countries to identify gaps in the veterinary laboratory systems and supporting the identification and implementation of corrective measures. In particular, to assess biorisk management in veterinary laboratories, FAO has developed the Laboratory Mapping Tool (LMT) comprising the LMT-safety and LMT-Biorisk for the assessment of biorisk management in veterinary laboratories.
Dealing with biosafety at national level
The workshop was an opportunity to explain and discuss the concepts of biosafety and biosecurity in the laboratory. It also provided an opportunity to get an idea of the needs and therefore the gaps to be filled in dealing with biosafety issues in the laboratory and to encourage the adoption of the principles of biosafety and biosecurity at national veterinary laboratories.
At the end of this workshop, participants developed a national roadmap for their laboratory to integrate these points into the daily management of their laboratory and gave their inputs to the regional laboratory safety program.
Despite the challenges faced in terms of implementing programmes that address biosecurity and biosafety, the kind of surveillance in place and how veterinary laboratories play a key role in identifying major outbreaks of animal and transboundary diseases, FAO supports the strengthening of the capacities of laboratory systems in Africa ensuring optimal biorisk management and adequate biosafety and biosecurity measurements to prevent the release of or exposure to infectious material.
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations