Maintaining laboratory quality assurance and safety in a pandemic: Experiences from the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme laboratory’s COVID-19 response
Gumba H., Opiyo M., Musyoki J., Mutunga M., Ngetsa C., Mwarumba S., Mosobo M., Njuguna S., Kai O., Lambisia AW., Kimani D., Cheruiyot R., Kiyuka P., Lewa C., Gicheru E., Tendwa M., Said Mohammed K., Osoti V., Makale J., Tawa B., Odundo C., Cheruiyot W., Nyamu W., Gumbi W., Mwacharo J., Nyamako L., Otieno E., Amadi D., Ouma N., Karia B., Thoya J., Karani A., Mugo D., Gichuki BM., Riako D., Mutua S., Gitonga JN., Ominde K., Wanjiku P., Mutiso A., Mwanzu A., Sein Y., Bartilol B., Mwangi S., Omuoyo DO., Morobe JM., de Laurent ZR., Mitsanze F., Mwakubia A., Rono M., Nyaguara A., Tsofa B., Bejon P., Agoti CN., Ochola-Oyier LI.
Laboratory diagnosis plays a critical role in the containment of a pandemic. Strong laboratory quality management systems (QMS) are essential for laboratory diagnostic services. However, low laboratory capacities in resource-limited countries has made the maintenance of laboratory quality assurance, especially during a pandemic, a daunting task. In this paper, we describe our experience of how we went about providing diagnostic testing services for SARS-CoV-2 through laboratory reorganization, redefining of the laboratory workflow, and training and development of COVID-19 documented procedures, all while maintaining the quality assurance processes during the COVID-19 pandemic at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP) laboratory. The KWTRP laboratory managed to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in Kenya by providing diagnostic testing for the coastal region of the country, while maintaining its research standard quality assurance processes. A COVID-19 team comprising of seven sub-teams with assigned specific responsibilities and an organizational chart with established reporting lines were developed. Additionally, a total of four training sessions were conducted for county Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) and laboratory personnel. A total of 11 documented procedures were developed to support the COVID-19 testing processes, with three for the pre-analytical phases, seven for the analytical phase, and one for the post-analytical phase. With the workflow re-organization, the development of appropriate standard operating procedures, and training, research laboratories can effectively respond to pandemic outbreaks while maintaining research standard QMS procedures.