FAO in Indonesia

Six Indonesian Disease Investigation Centers help accelerate COVID-19 testing

Ministry of Agriculture DIC Bukittinggi laboratory staff testing human samples for COVID-19

Jakarta – As the COVID-19 epidemic rages on in Indonesia, the government eventually increased the number of laboratories allowed to test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the cause of Coronavirus disease. The Directorate General of Livestock and Animal Health Services, Ministry of Agriculture (DGLAHS-MoA) has stepped up its One Health collaboration to support Ministry of Health (MoH) referral laboratories by preparing Disease Investigation Centers (DICs) to test human samples for COVID-19.

This initiative was applauded by the FAO Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases (FAO ECTAD) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which have been working closely with the DGLAHS MoA and the wider Government of Indonesia since the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 outbreak in 2006.

“To minimize the impact of this rapidly spreading virus, a One Health approach is one of the solutions. With previous experience in the control of avian influenza outbreaks, DICs are able to support public health laboratories to meet the massive demand for COVID-19 testing,” said FAO ECTAD Team Leader James McGrane.

FAO ECTAD assistance, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) over the past fourteen years has strengthened the capacity and capability of DICs to detect zoonotic and infectious diseases in animals, through comprehensive training on laboratory biosafety and biosecurity, quality assurance, risk mitigation, and procedures standardisation.

“This investment has convinced the government that DICs are well-positioned to carry out COVID-19 testing and support the testing surge capacity of public health laboratories to more rapidly identify cases of infection,” added Ryan Washburn, USAID Indonesia Mission Director.

By mid-May, three DIC laboratories (Bukittinggi – West Sumatra, Subang – West Java and Maros-South Sulawesi) had begun COVID-19 testing, while the other three laboratories (Wates– Yogyakarta, Lampung – Lampung and Banjarbaru-South Kalimantan) were making preparations and laboratory adjustments for COVID-19 testing. Four laboratories (Bukittinggi, Subang, Maros, Wates) have now received authorization from the MoH Health Research and Development Agency (Balitbangkes) to proceed with testing, while Lampung and Banjarbaru labs are still waiting for approval.

FAO ECTAD and USAID continue to work with DGLAHS-MoA and DICs to provide technical advice and guidance on harmonization of test protocols and bio-risk management (biosafety and biosecurity). This support aims to assist with validation of test results and to minimize the danger to laboratory workers, and maintain the biosecurity of the specimens tested.