In order to identify the difficulties encountered by the laboratories of the TB-Lab network and to provide them with technical assistance à la carte, a baseline assessment was carried out in 2019 in the 23 countries covered by the project. A capacity strengthening plan was then developed for each country separately in order to provide adequate training. In addition, during the year 2020, each country of the TB-Lab network was visited by the mentors/supervisors of the project for a mid-term evaluation after several capacity building activities. During this visit technical assistance was offered on the gaps and priority actions identified during the baseline evaluation.
The TB-Lab project offers a range of capacity building approaches, namely:
– technical assistance
– face-to-face and online courses
– practical internships
– online coaching
These capacity building activities include, among others, the following:
– the various tests for tuberculosis diagnosis and detection of drug resistance
– the maintenance of laboratory equipment
– quality management system
– data management
– the management of tuberculosis laboratory networks
– laboratory biosafety standards
– IATA guidelines for the transport of infectious substances
As the Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the world since 2020, the TB-Lab project has adapted its approach to assist countries through innovative pedagogical methods, including online courses and coaching. One of the pedagogical methods used is the flipped classroom approach. This approach empowers the participants in pre-studies to take ownership, before the course, of the topic. This allows more time for practical exercises and more advanced peer-to-peer exchanges.
External quality assessment
Each year, External Quality Assessments (EQA) are organized for the laboratories of the TB-Lab network to assess their proficiency in microscopy, GeneXpert, and phenotypic and genotypic DST of tuberculosis. The Cotonou SRL organizes proficiency testing for microscopy and GeneXpert. The distribution of strain panels with different drug resistance profiles as well as the feedback is provided by the SRL of Antwerp.
In order to assist laboratories in the TB-Lab network that do not have the appropriate technical platform for all tuberculosis tests, SRL Cotonou provides direct service delivery for phenotypic and genotypic (Hain) sensitivity testing for 1st and 2nd line anti-tuberculosis drugs. This activity is carried out on an ongoing basis.
Every year, the TB-Lab project organizes a meeting of all the project’s actors to present the results achieved, and to discuss the challenges to be taken up and the future perspectives. This meeting is held face-to-face and brings together the NTP coordinators, the NTRL managers of the 23 countries of the network as well as the technical assistants of the project which are the SRLs of Antwerp and Milan, the technical partners such as the WHO, and the main donor which is the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
In addition to this meeting, the technical committee of the project, in collaboration with the Antwerp and Milan SRLs, meets periodically to discuss the next steps. Moreover, meetings are held regularly with the NTRLs to discuss various topics related to the project.