News: Tanzanians Graduate Malaria Microscopy Course
Story by Staff Sgt. Ronald Lafosse
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania -- Twenty-one Tanzanians graduated from a two-week malaria microscopy course at the Tanzania National Health Laboratory and Quality Assurance Center Jan. 22.
The training came together through the cooperation and funding of multiple agencies within the U.S. government.
Seven Tanzanians from the November to December 2009 train-the-trainer course returned to instruct the students. They taught two methods of identifying malaria; rapid diagnostic testing and malaria microscopy.
Rapid diagnostic tests are simple. A blood sample is placed on a thin film and then put into a tube with a bonding agent. Fifteen minutes later, the film has a line if malaria is present.
The second method taught was malaria microscopy, counting parasites from a blood sample using a microscope. This helps determine the severity of a malaria case and also to see if treatment is helping a patient.
The Tanzanian participants also learned about the benefits of quality assurance, quality control and standard operating procedures.
By training instructors, Tanzanians are helping to improve the quality of malaria diagnosis at hospitals and health centers within their country.
"The most important element of what we've done these past two weeks is that seven Tanzanians, who were trained during phase one of our course in November and December 2009, have actually led the instruction of 21 of their fellow Tanzanians with the support and coaching from our partners from the Kenyan Medical Research Institute and Soldiers from the United States Army Medical Research Unit-Kenya," said U.S. Army Maj. Eric Wagar, Malaria Diagnostics and Control Center of Excellence director.
For many health care facilities the standard treatment for patients exhibiting malaria-like symptoms is to treat for malaria. With the rapid diagnostic test, Tanzanian medical facilities will have the capability to test a patient for malaria and get results within minutes.
"For the first time in the history of this country, we are bringing a device that can detect malaria at the lowest level of health care, where initially there was no such thing," said Fidelis Simon Mgohamwende, program officer for the National Malaria Control Program.
This will lead health care providers to treat patients more accurately and also help families by preventing the unnecessary purchase of medications that may not be needed.
"Drugs are expensive and if you are taking anti-malaria drugs and you don't have malaria, not only have you wasted the drugs, you've also wasted money to buy those drugs and you've treated people unnecessarily," said Wagar.
The 21 newly trained lab technicians will return to their respective health care facilities across Tanzania to train their co-workers.