JKUAT Launches a Mobile Diagnostic Lab in Mombasa

Mombasa County Governor, Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir cuts the ribbon to symbolise the commissioning of the first mobile diagnostic laboratory in Mombasa County.

Despite an increase in health spending, Kenya continues to face challenges in attaining accurate diagnoses of both infectious and non-communicable illnesses. Laboratory diagnosis remains suboptimal with much-needed lab equipment often lacking, financial resources being scarce and skilled medical staff underrepresented.

To curb this, the JKUAT Digital Health Applied Research Centre (DHARC) in collaboration with Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostic (FIND) and Praesens Care launched the first mobile diagnostic laboratory in Mombasa County to support routine and surveillance diagnostic services.

The mobile laboratory dubbed Bionear, uses an all-terrain vehicle that is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to offer a broad scope of health services and can handle the most infectious pathogens, using a closed, under-pressured isolator.

The laboratory is fitted with cellular and satellite connectivity that enables the transmission of results in real-time with the relevant stakeholders.

The laboratory is expected to increase the diagnostic testing capacity of the county, increase the utilization of mobile laboratory diagnostic services and decrease the turnaround time in communicating the laboratory test result.

It will at the same time provide a teaching platform through regular on-site training to build proficiency in core capacity and maintain core skills in laboratory diagnostics services.

While receiving the mobile laboratory, Mombasa Governor, Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir appreciated the team for choosing Mombasa County as the pilot of the project and pledged his support to ensure that the lab is deployed effectively and efficiently.

“To ensure equitable health and Universal Health Care for our people, we need this kind of partnership. I want to assure you that the lab will be fully operational in our six sub-counties and I am glad it will not only serve as a rapid deployment solution in cases of outbreaks but it will also extend to surveillance activities and provide basic laboratory support in decentralized healthcare settings,” said Governor Nassir.

To support the initiative, the Governor said his administration has ring-fenced health funding to ensure that the Community Health Volunteers get a stipend and the capacity of county health personnel is built.

Governor further said it was his hope that the lab will be used for health surveillance at the airport and port to safeguard the health of both the Kenyan people and international visitors.

Mobile Diagnostic Labaratory

On her part, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi acknowledged that the launch came at a time when people in disadvantaged communities struggle with access to quality medical, surgical and diagnostic services which form crucial parts of the health system and have a great contribution to disease prevention and management.

“This laboratory will play a crucial role in the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease in patients. It will also ensure that our medical decisions are not only based on clinical judgment but also exploit the full potential of laboratory services,” attested Prof. Ngumi.

FIND Kenya, Executive Director, Prof. Joseph Mathu Ndung’u said the launch epitomized FIND’s mission of coordinating partnerships among communities, academia, diagnostic companies, and ministries of health among others to ensure that the distance people travel for testing is reduced.

Prof. Mathu, who is also the JKUAT Chancellor, encouraged the partners to ensure the success of the project, guarantee the increase of mobile laboratory diagnostic services capacity and decrease the turnaround time in communicating laboratory test results not only in Mombasa County but also across the country.

The Principal Investigator of JKUAT DHARC, Prof. Simon Karanja said the launch came at a time when recent outbreaks and pandemics have exposed the importance of timely accurate diagnosis and precision medicine.

“The laboratory ensures that we secure diagnostic infrastructure and quality services close to the people reducing the diagnostic gap and improving health outcomes,” said Prof. Karanja.

The launch was also addressed by the Belgian Honorary Consul, Mr. Lou Dierick, Co-founder and Head of Projects at Praesens Care, Ms. Aurélie Cappuyns, Chief Officer Public Health, Ms. Pauline Oginga and the Chair of Health Committee, Mombasa County Assembly, Mr. Bernard Ogutu among others.

For the Bionear Project, Prof. Karanja leads a formidable team of researchers including Dr. Reuben Thuo, Prof. Fred Wamunyokoli, Dr. Serah Kagia and Dr. Joseph Machua.

Earlier, the JKUAT team led by Prof. Mathu and Prof. Ngumi, paid a courtesy call to JKUAT Mombasa Campus and were received by the Campus Director, Dr. Evelyne Datche.

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