March 2017—Each year in the Kyrgyz Republic, over 5,500 people are diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB), an infectious disease that can be deadly if untreated. Until recently, however, the country did not have laboratories that met the high requirements of the international laboratory standard known as ISO-15189.
Because TB is diagnosed through various tests in specialized laboratories, improving laboratory processes is essential for reducing disease prevalence. As part of its efforts to stem the TB epidemic in the Kyrgyz Republic, USAID helped to roll out a comprehensive quality management system in a number of laboratories throughout the country. The system, recommended by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, covers all aspects of modern laboratory processes, from handling biological samples to mitigating risks of infection.
Since the beginning of the rollout in March 2015, 217 laboratory professionals have been trained on the system. Today, 10 laboratories in three oblasts meet the rigorous standards of international quality and competence.
This outstanding achievement was made possible with USAID’s expert technical assistance and close collaboration with the Kyrgyz Republic’s National Reference Laboratory, which is responsible for quality control and certification of all laboratories operating in the country.
“The quality management system in our laboratories has significantly helped us to improve the performance of technicians and the quality of laboratory tests,” said Gulmira Kalmambetova, director of the National Reference Laboratory.
Recent external and independent verifications established test accuracy at 77 percent, up from 70 percent before the new system was introduced. The working environment of laboratory technicians is also much safer. In the past, some technicians contracted TB because laboratory protocols were not rigorously enforced. For example, biological samples were passed from one room to another by a technician walking across corridors, when the best practice is through controlled biosafety cabinets. And, since the quality management system was rolled out, no laboratory personnel have been diagnosed with active TB.
Most importantly, patients now get more accurate tests in a shorter amount of time. If they are found to have TB, patients receive counseling on how to prevent exposing others to the illness, a critical element for the successful defeat of tuberculosis in Kyrgyzstan. These more rapid test results also allow patients to quickly start their treatment. Once the appropriate antibiotic treatment is started, patients gradually cease to be infectious, and they can no longer pass the disease to others.
The quality management system is part of USAID’s Defeat TB Project in the Kyrgyz Republic, which runs from 2014 to 2019. Through policy advice, trainings and technical assistance, the project helps to make the country’s health care system more efficient and effective in the fight against TB.
Last updated: March 23, 2017