APHL, working with the Influenza Division at the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), launched the second regional Influenza Laboratory Mentorship Program with a one-week training in Kigali, Rwanda, in July. The program will offer two years of training and support for ten national influenza laboratories in Africa. The goal is to improve influenza quality management systems and meet the World Health Organization (WHO) terms of reference for National Influenza Centers, supporting their Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System.
Building on the successes of the first Influenza Laboratory Mentorship Program in Southeastern Europe, laboratories in the African program are paired with CDC and APHL mentors who communicate regularly with mentees. They offer guidance, answer questions, share resources and plan to visit their mentee’s laboratory at least once during the two years of the program. At the end of the program, a representative from the mentee laboratory makes the trip in the other direction to the mentor’s facility.
At the July training, country teams identified action items to be completed in the first year of the program. Using the WHO Laboratory Quality Stepwise Implementation tool which outlines a process for developing high-performing, safe and accurate laboratory operations and other sources, country teams established their priorities. These included selecting a biosafety officer or developing standard operating procedures for accessioning specimens from sentinel sites.
Moving forward, APHL will monitor the status of action items through monthly teleconferences with country teams and mentors. At the one year mark, APHL will reconvene program participants to assess progress, share resources and continue momentum going into the second half of the mentorship. With this support, the region’s national influenza laboratories will move closer to global surveillance goals for this mutable, mobile and highly unpredictable virus.