The first Ebola outbreak in Guinea highlighted the vulnerability of the country’s health system. Without action, the country could have seen the emergence of other zoonotic diseases with epidemic potential.
To better understand the conditions in which such diseases emerge and identify good practices to detect and prevent them, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as part of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) programme funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), undertook a series of activities from 2017 to strengthen veterinary laboratories in Guinea, including the Central Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (LCVD) in Conakry and the Regional Veterinary Laboratories of Labé, Kankan and Nzérékoré. As well as renovating and re-equipping these laboratories, FAO, through its Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD), provided training to several technicians – including the LCVD’s Dr. Chérif Mohamed Lamine Diallo.
“I was born in 1957 in Labé,” he says. “I studied at Kindia University (Foulayah) and after graduation, I was awarded a scholarship to study in Germany for my master’s degree before pursuing a PhD in Russia.
“In 2005, I joined the Ministry of Livestock as a laboratory technician in the virology section. Five years later, a quality assurance section was created, and I was appointed head of the LCVD’s quality assurance section. In this period, I contributed to the laboratory’s quality standards documents, which served as handbooks for the many trainees completing practical placements at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. Currently, I am in charge of quality assurance and biosafety/biosecurity at the Central Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Conakry.”
Having taken part in a series of trainings on biosafety and biosecurity for veterinary diagnostic laboratories, Diallo says: “At the LCVD, we have succeeded in detecting certain diseases at an early stage while respecting biosafety/biosecurity measures, preventing the spread of pathogenic germs. Our laboratories are able to diagnose threats quickly and efficiently, making the health system more effective.
“FAO contributes effectively to establishing and improving the application of appropriate measures to carry out diagnoses of infectious animal diseases in conditions that are safe for technicians and the environment.”
The courses Diallo received on biosafety/biosecurity, diagnosis and coordination between laboratories now help him coordinate the West and Central Africa Veterinary Laboratory Network for Avian Influenza and other Transboundary Diseases (RESOLAB).
Today, the LCVD has the tools to analyse large numbers of samples in record time and to give reliable results. Samples are analysed in strict compliance with biosafety/biosecurity standards. The laboratory serves as an early warning tool for veterinary services of new zoonotic diseases with epidemic potential.
“The technicians I trained on basic concepts of biosafety and biosecurity in the lab are able to take stock of the different stages of disease diagnosis. They also take part in training at regional level,” Diallo explains.
Since 2018, Guinea’s laboratory technicians have also been participating in regional competitions. “Thanks to FAO, we take part in regional interlaboratory proficiency tests where we have achieved promising results for rabies, avian influenza and Newcastle disease,” according to Diallo.
In addition to building capacity, FAO also renovated Guinea’s national veterinary laboratories, supplying them with advanced equipment including reagents and consumables. The upgrade, which cost a total of 1 million USD, was wholly supported by the GHSA programme and implemented by FAO in partnership with USAID.