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Dr Bridgit Muasa–Priority Zoonotic Diseases Samples tested in CVL Kabete, Nairobi. ©FAO

Strengthening Kenya’s veterinary laboratories to combat transboundary animal diseases

24/03/2022

With support from FAO and USAID, Kenya’s Central Veterinary Laboratory has received ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accreditation after meeting international standards for competence.  

Zoonotic diseases remain a serious problem for Kenya. Outbreaks of rabies, brucellosis, Rift Valley fever and anthrax still occur intermittently in different parts of the country. 

However, the country has made great strides in combating this challenge. National veterinary laboratories play a crucial role in preventing, detecting and responding to animal health threats and are at the heart of veterinary services’ programmes to control transboundary animal diseases.

FAO offers support to Member Countries by strengthening capacities of national and subnational epidemiology and laboratory systems through continuous staff training, provision of tools and standardized methodology. In Kenya, FAO has been supporting the capacity development of regional and national veterinary laboratories through technical advice and assistance, coordination and logistical support, provided by its Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

In 2016, as part of the implementation of the pilot project “Improving Policy for Veterinary Laboratories in Kenya”, FAO contributed to the development of a national veterinary laboratory policy, following a review of veterinary laboratory policies at national and regional level conducted in 2013. In 2019, FAO brought together quality assurance focal points from national veterinary laboratories in Eastern Africa and English-speaking countries in West Africa at a regional training workshop to strengthen capacities on quality assurance.

During this period, FAO ECTAD increased diagnostic capacity of eight subnational and two national veterinary laboratories in Kenya, providing critical infrastructural improvements, equipment and reagents, and improving biosecurity and biosafety systems for more effective prevention and faster response to outbreaks.

Rose Matua, Director of Laboratory Services at the Directorate of Veterinary Services, explains: “All the staff in the national veterinary laboratories have been trained on implementation of ISO/IEC 17025:2017 and are able to effectively implement the standard.” She adds that through support from FAO and USAID, Central Veterinary Laboratory (CVL) staff improved their proficiency testing capabilities with reference laboratories designated by FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health, where satisfactory results were obtained for rabies, brucellosis and highly pathogenic avian influenza.

As part of this laboratory strengthening work, FAO, together with the Government of Kenya and a project supported by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s Fleming Fund, supported national referral laboratories, including the CVL Kabete and the National Veterinary Quality Control Laboratory Embakassi, to obtain ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accreditation for 62 testing procedures. This achievement demonstrates that FAO has contributed effectively to the establishment and improvement of the application of appropriate measures to carry out the diagnosis of infectious animal diseases under satisfactory safety conditions for the handler and the environment.  

Building on this contribution, in May 2021, FAO facilitated a working session with the Director of Veterinary Services on this ISO standard, to enable national veterinary laboratories to demonstrate that they operate competently and generate valid results, thereby promoting confidence in their work both nationally and around the world.

In March 2022, the CVL undertook a three-day assessment by the Kenya Accreditation Service and obtained ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accreditation, thanks in part to the significant support provided by FAO and USAID on developing standard operating procedures, procuring equipment, primers and probes that were available during the assessment, maintaining and calibrating equipment, installing a laboratory information management system for standardization of laboratory diagnostic processes and better sample tracking, and providing funding for the accreditation process by the national accreditation body on behalf of the Directorate of Veterinary Services/CVL, among many other interventions.

Through ECTAD, FAO continues to develop national technical laboratory capacities for competence and to build a critical mass of laboratory specialists – a strategic imperative to effectively manage transboundary and zoonotic diseases that risk impacting on animal health, public health, economies and livelihoods.

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