Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a growing public health problem in countries around the world, and Kenya is no exception. Under an award from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ICAP is working with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to improve the prevention, detection, and response to antibiotic resistant bacteria in hospitals in Kenya.

One key part of this effort is ICAP’s recruitment, training, and deployment of two laboratory technologists to Kenya’s National Microbiology Reference Laboratory (NMRL). NMRL is a department within the Ministry of Health tasked with identifying and logging microbial samples sent in by AMR surveillance sites around the country. After recruiting the laboratory technicians, ICAP enrolled them in a two-week training program on AMR, and subsequently seconded them to the NMRL, where they have been applying their knowledge and skills to improve the speed and efficiency with which sample results are tested and returned to the surveillance sites.

The NMRL’s target turnaround time for testing clinical samples sent in from the AMR surveillance hospitals is three days. Prior to the arrival of the two ICAP-supported laboratory technologists, fewer than 70 percent of samples sent for confirmatory testing to the NMRL met that target. Within six months, more than 95 percent of samples were being tested within three days, and the new lab techs have cleared a backlog of several months’ worth of test results. In addition, the NMRL is now able to provide the surveillance hospitals with regular, up-to-date quarterly reports, which are essential for hospitals to track AMR occurrence and highlight any gaps.

“The two laboratory technologists have positively impacted the way we work here, not just as extra hands on-deck to clear the workload but also through improved engagement with AMR surveillance sites, as they are available for consultations regarding microbiology related services,” said Jedidah Kahura, NMRL’s manager. “They are useful additions to the team, and we are happy to have them on board.”

The initiative is part of a larger, CDC-supported project called Detection and Response Antimicrobial Resistance (DARE AMR) that aims to mitigate the development and spread of AMR in Kenya. ICAP is working with the Ministry of Health and a network of four hospitals in and around Nairobi to improve their ability to detect bacterial infections, determine antimicrobial resistance, assess antibiotic use and prevalence of health care-acquired infections, and develop a quality improvement collaborative. Through the laboratory technologists’ work and the project’s quality improvement efforts there has been a positive knock-on effect at all 17 of the country’s AMR surveillance sites.

“Simultaneous strengthening of the laboratory quality control and antimicrobial stewardship at the hospitals has greatly improved the laboratory clinical interface and is contributing to quality of patient care and mitigation and spread of AMR in the hospitals,” said Yen Pottinger, PhD, ICAP’s senior technical advisor for laboratory surveillance, and principal investigator for the project.

ICAP has been a leading partner of the ministry of health in Kenya since 2006, strengthening the national response to HIV and COVID-19, and advancing the laboratory system, infection prevention and control, and global health security.

About ICAP

A major global health organization that has been improving public health in countries around the world for nearly two decades, ICAP works to transform the health of populations through innovation, science, and global collaboration. Based at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, ICAP has projects in more than 30 countries, working side-by-side with ministries of health and local governmental, non-governmental, academic, and community partners to confront some of the world’s greatest health challenges. Through evidence-informed programs, meaningful research, tailored technical assistance, effective training and education programs, and rigorous surveillance to measure and evaluate the impact of public health interventions, ICAP aims to realize a global vision of healthy people, empowered communities, and thriving societies. Online at www.icap.columbia.edu

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