A Global Classroom : APHL Goes Virtual to Strengthen International Laboratory Capacity
by Shannon Emery , manager , Global Health
The COVID-19 pandemic inherently changed the way APHL is able to provide technical assistance in resourceconstrained countries and build laboratory capacity — needed more than ever for quality and timely COVID-19 diagnostic testing . Undeterred by border closures and no in-person contact , APHL leveraged the expertise in APHL ’ s membership to adapt existing and create new virtual trainings to build the international laboratory capacity to deliver accurate COVID-19 results safely and efficiently .
• Develop staff competency for COVID-19 testing
• Establish biosecurity and biosafety guidelines for proper handling of samples
• Institute both good molecular techniques and validation and verification of COVID-19 diagnostic tests .
FIND and ASLM contacted APHL to provided technical expertise for the virtual training courses . In April , over 12,000 registered participants from laboratories around the world attended FIND ’ s COVID-19 : Diagnostics and Testing
three-week online training course . Two sessions , “ Good Molecular Biology Testing Practice ” and “ Validation and Verification of Qualitative Tests ,” were presented by
APHL members David Mills , PhD , HCLD and Francis Downes , DrPH , respectively . They led discussions , clarified concepts and provided expertise to troubleshoot complex testing challenges .
APHL also collaborated with ASLM on their weekly COVID-19 courses & trainings
on COVID-19 guidelines , diagnostics and treatment . In “ Session 19 : Public Health Lab Networks and SARS-CoV-2 Testing : Challenges , Strategies , and Lessons from the USA ,” Ralph Timperi , senior advisor for lab practice management at APHL , provided insight on components of the US public health laboratory network , options on managing supply chain interruptions and surge testing , and reviewed the multiple testing platforms available for COVID-19 . In “ Session 20 : Laboratory Data Management Considerations for COVID-19 Response ,” APHL staff members Reshma Kakkar and Rufus Nyaga , among others , shared the need for a robust laboratory data management strategy , policies for data collection , management , storage , reporting and system-agnostic data exchange to support the needs of this global public health emergency .
Developing Custom Training
APHL also developed and updated customized training modules on COVID-19 diagnostic testing in response to technical training requests from several countries in Asia and Africa . The modules , formatted for expert delivery through virtual platforms , included :
• Coronaviruses and Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines
• Performing a Risk Assessment
• Validation and Verification
• Principles of Good Molecular Technique
• Specimen Collection , Packaging , and Shipping .
In collaboration with CDC Indonesia , the Indonesia National Institute of Health Research and Development ( NIHRD ) and the MOH Indonesia , APHL provided trainings to 430 biosafety officers , quality officers and laboratory technicians from 123 institutions in 25 of Indonesia ’ s 34 provinces that were performing or preparing to implement COVID-19 diagnostic testing . Simultaneously , the Government of Vietnam identified a need for an expanded technical workforce to support COVID-19 response efforts . APHL trained animal health laboratories on collection , handling and diagnosis of specimens from suspected COVID-19 cases during a workshop held March 18-20 .
Additional trainings are being converted into virtual formats . “ Quality Management Systems : Training of Trainers ” is currently under development , and APHL is partnering with BD
to develop an introductory , online laboratory management and leadership course based on the APHL Foundations of Laboratory Leadership and Management ( FLLM ) curriculum . The revised program , Laboratory Leadership and Management Essentials , will be initially launched through the BD Labs for Life
collaboration with CDC and the President ’ s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief ( PEPFAR ). n