The BLMs4BU Consortium contributes to the mission of BU-LABNET by strengthening the laboratory capacity on PCR BU diagnosis in the WHO African region, as well as sharing knowledge and experiences between the member laboratories together with the BU National Programmes of these countries, striving to improve the quality of BU diagnosis.
Emma Sáez López (Universidad de Zaragoza), researcher and project manager of the BLMs4BU project, presented updated data at the Fifth Annual Meeting of BU-LABNET. Two rounds of quality controls in Benin and one round in the other three countries were performed up-to-date. An overall good performance was observed, being necessary to implement corrective measures only in a few cases.
BLMs4BU is conducted in four BU-endemic countries: Benin, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Togo. All the laboratories that perform the diagnostic in the project are members of the WHO-led BU-LABNET, which has an External Quality Assurance programme for IS2404 qPCR in place. Furthermore, in the framework of the BLMs4BU clinical trial, a complementary Internal Quality Assurance is run to ensure adherence to the standard operating procedures developed by BU-LABNET and harmonization within BLMs4BU procedures, from sample collection to qPCR confirmation. DNA panels and clinical samples are sent to the laboratories for blind analysis by IS2404 qPCR on a six-monthly/annual basis. Results are shared with the coordinator for assessment. In addition, 16S rRNA RT-PCR was implemented in Pobé treatment centre laboratory, Benin, to contribute to the bacterial clearance sub-study.
Israel Cruz (Instituto de Salud Carlos III), member of the WHO Diagnostic Technical Advisory Group for NTDs and Data lead manager of the BLMs4BU Consortium, presented on the role of diagnostics and laboratories to achieve 2030 NTDs road map targets. During this meeting it was formalized the expansion of BU-LABNET to Skin-NTD -LABNET, in alignment with the framework for integrated control and management of skin-NTDs. First steps will be to integrate four new diseases, i.e., yaws, cutaneous leishmaniasis, mycetoma and leprosy, and involve new countries and laboratories. Recommendations and activities for 2024 were delivered to the Coordinating Centre, member laboratories, national BU programs, WHO and partners in order to facilitate the transition from BU-LABNET to skin-NTD-LABNET.
The Fifth Annual Meeting of BU-LABNET was organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Ghana, Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service and the BU-LABNET Coordinating Centre at the Pasteur Centre of Cameroon, was held in Accra, Ghana, on 23-25 October 2023. About 60 participants from network member laboratories across Africa and partners were brought together for this meeting.
BU-LABNET was established in 2019 under the auspices of WHO and is supported by WHO, American Leprosy Missions, Anesvad Foundation (Spain) and Raoul Follereau Foundation (France). This network is formed by 13 laboratories from nine endemic countries, which include Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo, the four laboratories in charge of the molecular diagnosis of Buruli Ulcer (BU) in the BLMs4BU project. The objective of the network is to improve diagnosis of BU with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) among member laboratories using standardized testing protocols, involving external quality assurance programs.