“Receiving the status of WHO collaborating centre means our skills and decades of hard work are recognised. It confirms we are ready to not only serve our own country, but also neighbouring countries,” said Prof Dieudonné Mumba Ngoyi, who heads the Parasitology Department that includes the National Reference Laboratory for human African trypanosomiasis that now becomes a new WHO collaborating centre.
ITM has been working with the INRB laboratory since 1998 through its capacity-development programme funded by the Belgian Development Cooperation. “ITM has accompanied us in the creation and the functioning of the laboratory, as well as by training the majority of staff members, myself included,” said Prof Mumba. “To me, becoming a WHO collaborating centre is the crowning of a sincere long-term partnership.”
Human African trypanosomiasis is a deadly parasitic disease transmitted by tsetse flies which currently affects 16 African countries, but with over 80% of new cases currently reported in DRC. In recent years, systematic screening and treating has reduced new cases to a mere few thousands, but the risk of a flare-up always looms large.
“As sleeping sickness becomes increasingly rare, it becomes also more challenging to recognise the disease in an early stage. INRB’s position and skills as diagnostic reference centre are essential in the elimination of sleeping sickness . The National Reference Laboratory for human African trypanosomiasis at INRB has earned its stripes and is a pleasure to collaborate with”, said Prof Philippe Büscher, head of the Diagnostic Parasitology Unit at ITM.
The efforts to eliminate sleeping sickness in the DRC is led by the country’s national control programme (PNLTHA), in collaboration with ITM, Belgium and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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