PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Public Health Reference Laboratory, a public sector facility at the Khyber Medical University (KMU), has begun testing blood samples of the suspected coronavirus patients.
Earlier, such samples from the province were sent to the National Institute of Health, Islamabad, for examination.
PHRL additional director Dr Asif Ali told Dawn that the first test was performed at the lab on Friday with the suspected case testing negative for coronavirus.
He said the PHRL was allowed by the NIH to test samples of the suspected coronavirus cases.
Dr Asif said tests would be carried out free of charge but all hospitals would send samples trough the health department.
He said the lab had performed the first test on a suspected coronavirus case from a medical teaching hospital, whose blood sample was sent in by the health department.
The PHRL additional director said a case took one day for testing but patients should be pronounced suspected only through clinical symptoms before sending sample to the lab through proper channel i.e. the department.
According to him, the department has started training health personnel regarding the identification of suspected cases and protocols for dispatching samples to the lab.
“The PHRL has got only 50 kits for as many patients, while future supplies are subject to arrival from China,” he said.
He said the NIH would begin the production of coronavirus testing kits in near future.
Dr Asif, an associate professor at the KMU, said if kits were unavailable, the lab would keep samples for testing afterward.
He said the lab would conduct coronavirus tests as part of the prevention programme started by the government to prevent the disease, which has so far affected six people in the country.
The PHRL additional director said the lab had two committees, one for technical disease evaluation headed by DG (health services) and another for oversight headed by the health minister. He said the NIH would provide the lab with personal protective equipment.
“We, in close liaison with the NIH, World Health Organisation, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and Public Health England, have accelerated work to provide rapid diagnostic services to the people in case of outbreak,” he said.
The lab was established in 2017 and it began work this year. It was set up by the provincial government to meet the WHO’s International Health Regulations, which make it mandatory for member countries to put in place such facilities at regional level.
Meanwhile, the ‘Situation Report’ issued by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa director general (health services) said 31 people, who had travelled to Iran, underwent examination.
It said 20 suspected cases identified so far had tested negative for the deadly virus.
The report said 7,699 people were screened on the Pak-Afghan border and at the Bacha Khan International Airport, Peshawar, during the last 24 hours in collaboration with the Health Establishment, Islamabad.
It said personal protective equipment had been supplied to the health facilities in accordance with the disease preparedness plan.
Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2020