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ASM and FIND to partner on strengthening infectious disease diagnosis in developing nations

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding today confirming their agreement to work in partnership for projects aimed at strengthening infectious disease diagnosis and service integration in resource-poor and transitional countries.

"The collaboration between the ASM and FIND will focus on strengthening the foundation for infectious disease diagnosis in resource-poor nations, providing novel diagnostics and laboratory expertise for tuberculosis and other infectious diseases that are appropriate to the unique circumstances found in developing nations," says Steven Specter, Chair of the ASM's International Laboratory Capacity Building Committee.

The memorandum of understanding signed by the ASM and FIND arises from a pilot project that the two organizations have been conducting in Cote d'Ivoire since April 2008. In the pilot collaboration, FIND is developing and providing rapid, accurate and affordable tuberculosis diagnostic tests that can be effectively deployed in resource poor areas while the ASM is sending experts in clinical microbiology to provide training and technical assistance in the implementation of these new tests.

"We expect our partnership to reinforce the expansion and further development of quality-assured laboratory services as part of a larger framework of health system strengthening within resource-poor settings. Combating poverty-related infectious diseases with the development and rapid introduction of new diagnostic tests where they are most needed is why partnerships like the one between FIND and ASM are extremely important," says Giorgio Roscigno, CEO of FIND.

The WHO estimates that 2 billion people, or approximately one third of the world's population, are infected with the bacteria that cause tuberculosis. Africa represents 28% of all tuberculosis cases and has the highest infection rate per capita. Tuberculosis is a leading cause of death among people living with HIV/AIDS and most of the world's 200,000 HIV/TB deaths occur in Africa.

One of the primary challenges is that modern diagnostic tools for tuberculosis in industrialized countries are not suited to the infrastructure of resource poor nations where in some cases just getting reliable electricity is a problem. New, reliable diagnostics that can be effectively implemented in developing nations, as well as the expertise to use them, are urgently needed.

FIND is prioritizing tests that can be adopted at the lowest level of the health system, where a large number of patients first seek care. The technologies targeted for each level are intended to match the human resources available and the degree of complexity of the diagnostic question. Some of the diagnostic tools expected to be introduced into control programs will be incremental improvements on existing technologies while others will be radically new.

ASM, through its International Laboratory Capacity Building program, is ensuring the quality-assured implementation of new and existing diagnostic tools in resource-limited countries through onsite training and technical assistance. For this purpose, ASM is strengthening clinical microbiology laboratories by mobilizing its members to build human resource capacity for diagnosis of tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.

The memorandum of understanding is expected to serve as the beginning of a close collaboration between the ASM and FIND towards maximizing their complementary strengths and contributions to global health efforts.


Contact: Jim Sliwa
American Society for Microbiology

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