23 December 2016 - The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was invited to present the FAO Laboratory Mapping Tool (LMT) during two World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) regional seminars for OIE National focal points for veterinary laboratories, in Harare (Zimbabwe from 29 November to 1st December 2016) and in Sweimeh (Jordan, from 13-15 December 2016). OIE Delegates and OIE National focal points for veterinary laboratories from Southern Africa and from Middle East countries (respectively) attended the meeting aimed at providing them knowledge on rights, commitments and responsibilities of the OIE national focal points.
As part of their responsibilities, OIE laboratory focal points need to yearly map the national laboratory network capacity and share the information on the World Animal Health Information Database (WAHIS). Specifically, there is need for information on the national reference laboratories’ diagnostic capabilities to be collected and updated annually.
The FAO LMT is a pertinent tool in evidencing and understanding where diagnostic laboratory gaps and strengths are. It can assist in developing strategic plans that will match with individual, national and regional laboratory needs.
The FAO LMT is based on a standardized format that allows data to be captured either by external evaluators or through self-assessment:
- The general LMT (Core LMT) tool is designed to facilitate the assessment of laboratory functionality capacities of veterinary laboratories in a systematic and semi-quantitative manner. As an addition to the core LMT, a safety LMT module has been developed to assess the environmental safety of veterinary laboratories and occupational risks and is now available on line. Currently, other modules are being developed to address specific laboratory needs to complement the general and safety assessment, including a Quality Assurance (QA) module and modules to assess capacities for specific disease diagnosis. This tool has also been expanded to the field of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). A comprehensive tool derived from the LMT is being finalised to assess national AMR surveillance capacities and testing as well as describe them in a qualitative manner.
- The core LMT and its modules can be applied as simple Excel files or using a mobile application. Once the assessors conducting the LMT share the results with FAO, the LMT data are compiled and displayed on a global portal that allows for further statistical analysis. National portals will be available shortly upon request and will enable individual countries to manage LMT data related to their national veterinary laboratory system. Through such portals, laboratories or countries will also be able to compare their status on an anonymous basis with others at national, regional and global levels and determine their competencies and gaps.
- In 2016, FAO launched trainings on the use of the LMT (first national training in Thailand in February 2016 and first regional training for Asian countries in August 2016) to empower national laboratory staff for independent self-assessment of their own veterinary laboratory or other laboratories in their country.
- FAO, OIE and the FAO/International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) joint division are currently discussing the possible links and synergies between the OIE laboratory PVS tool, the FAO LMT and the FAO/IAEA joint division’s laboratory platform (VETLAB). These tools will allow to analyse the capacities of the national veterinary laboratories and national laboratory network. The information gathered will also be critical to the FAO initiative on Veterinary Laboratory policy as it will provide information on the capacities and needs of strengthening of the national veterinary laboratory system. Countries will thus use this information during the process of development or strengthening of their national veterinary laboratory policy.
The FAO LMT (core and modules) as well as its mobile application and the national LMT portal could be useful tools to assist OIE laboratory focal points while collecting information on the national reference laboratories’ diagnostic capabilities. Furthermore, OIE national laboratory focal points could be valuable national resources to become LMT assessors in their country.