Castries, St. Lucia, 2 March 2023 (PAHO) – With the rainy season approaching in the Eastern Caribbean, personnel at the Ezra Long Laboratory of the Owen King European Union Hospital in St Lucia have been trained to detect mosquito-borne diseases such as, Dengue Fever, Zika, and Chikungunya viruses.
On 13-16 February 2023, PAHO Virologist Dr. Lionel Gresh facilitated the in-person training using state-of-the-art molecular tests also known as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).
This training leveraged the infrastructure, equipment, and human capacity for molecular testing built by St. Lucia over the past three years in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in close collaboration with PAHO.
Eight laboratory members participated in the four-day training which included theoretical and hands-on sessions. Theoretical training focused on the basic principles, implementation in diagnostic laboratories, and data analysis of molecular assays, while the hands-on training covered sample preparation and testing for Dengue virus, Zika, and Chikungunya. Training on assay to differentiate the four serotypes of dengue virus was also provided.
During the visit, specific testing reagents were provided to the laboratory, current procedures and workflows for molecular testing were reviewed with the laboratory team, and recommendations for further improvement were made. As a result, the Ezra Long Laboratory now has the capacity to test for Dengue fever, Zika, and Chikungunya, which cause a significant health burden in St Lucia and the wider Caribbean.
PAHO and the laboratory leadership also discussed future developments for the molecular testing platform and are planning to expand its capacity to notably include influenza testing. Molecular testing platforms are also useful beyond endemic pathogens and their versatility strengthens the country’s preparedness for the emergence of new pathogens.