A major resource for laboratories, equipment – like thermocyclers, biosafety cabinets, freezers, and microscopes – shapes the kind of services that can be provided in support of national animal health programmes. Equipment plays an important role in detecting diseases that affect animal and human health.
To find out how veterinary laboratory equipment is maintained and calibrated worldwide, we surveyed our Members. The outcomes of the survey offer unique insights into the status of laboratory equipment for stakeholders in animal health laboratory systems—such as governments, farmers, resource partners, and research partners — to adjust strategies for laboratory capacity building, to improve efficiency, and to reduce waste.
The information collected provides a baseline that —if such a survey is conducted regularly—can be used to measure progress and serve as a benchmark for assessments in the framework of a PVS Sustainable Laboratories mission. Given the timing of the survey, which was carried out just before the COVID-19 pandemic, repeating it in the recovery period may provide more valuable insights on the resilience of veterinary laboratories and their resources during emergencies.
Methodology and Data Source
The survey sought to quantify the amount of improperly maintained or calibrated laboratory equipment in veterinary laboratories worldwide. It covers 40 types of business-critical laboratory equipment and received responses from 223 veterinary laboratories in 136 Members across all five Regions.
The goals were to:
the status of laboratory equipment maintenance, repair, and calibration around the world
insights into equipment-related challenges to laboratory sustainability
an evidence gap for biosafety and biosecurity reseach efforts
its impact on good laboratory management and laboratory sustainability in general so that solutions can be developed.
The Timeframe: May-August 2019
Results and Insights
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The World Organisation for Animal Health maintains Representations in the following regions: Africa, Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Middle East.
Take Home Messages
- Laboratory equipment is ‘consumable’ in lower-resource settings, instead of valuable and valued capital investments that are leveraged over time.
- Laboratory equipment donation recipients do not have the financial or human capital to maintain equipment and infrastructure. This may lead to technical failures and increase the potential for inadvertent releases of dangerous pathogens.
- More rigorous and evidence-based standards on the donation of laboratory equipment s should be agreed between all investors and beneficiaries in health laboratory systems prior to investment.
- Laboratory equipment management is a cross-sectoral issue, often affected by the lack of coordination and overinvestment in equipment in the laboratory sector.
- A shift in strategy towards sustaining capacity, including long-term planning, balancing investments, and setting priorities to maintain strengthened infrastructure and capability is needed.
- Given the risks for emerging disease outbreaks and pandemics, as it has been demonstrated by COVID-19, governments’ investment in laboratories is critical to ensuring that laboratory systems are sustainably resourced, prepared, and equipped to face future challenges.
- The current global context has shown that better laboratory preparedness is essential, and that the right laboratory equipment maintained and calibrated on a regular basis is a key component of a laboratory preparedness plan. It is important to understand the gaps in laboratory capacity to be better prepared for future health crises.
We expect that our findings will help key stakeholders to address challenges linked to laboratory equipment.
need to identify potential gaps related to equipment management and to better plan how to sustain investments made by resource partners
need to reframe investments and measures of success in light of the sustainability challenges faced by national authorities and design effective investments based on the national needs of laboratories
Manufacturers, researchers, innovators, and engineers
are encouraged in their efforts toward innovative and effective designs that are fit-for-purpose in low-resource settings.
To support Members in their efforts towards sustainable laboratory networks, we provide recommendations through our International Standards from the Manual of Diagnostic Tests and vaccines for Terrestrial Animals
Management of Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories
“A key component of the delivery of scientific services is the routine monitoring, calibration and maintenance of scientific equipment. This is a real challenge in terms of both the resources to maintain the process and the availability of trained engineers and calibration equipment. Managing these processes should be a priority for resource allocation as test results generated on unmaintained and uncalibrated equipment cannot be trusted to be accurate.”
Biosafety and Biosecurity: Standard for managing biological risk in the veterinary laboratory and animal facilities
Laboratory equipment may provide a route for exposure and release of biological agents and toxins from laboratory environments and therefore administrative, operational, and engineering controls must be in place to mitigate risks in the most basic biological management programmes.
Quality Management in Veterinary Testing Laboratories
Laboratory equipment must be appropriate, available, have planned maintenance and calibration schedules. Laboratory equipment and its status contributes to the optimization and standardisation of test methods, may influence the validation of test methods, and may introduce uncertainty on accuracy and reliability.
Principles and methods of validation of diagnostic assays for infectious diseases
“Essential equipment critical to assay performance must be described in detail, including operational specifications and calibration” and that laboratory equipment availability—and therefore its maintenance and calibration status—may affect the laboratory’s ability to meet the operational requirements of an assay and therefore make it unfit for its intended use.
Standards for high throughput sequencing, bioinformatics, and computational genomics
Urges consideration of the capital and operational costs of the purchase and set up of all equipment, annual licences, or service agreements, including manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule, and required expertise and training to operation the equipment to ensure that the technology is fit for its intended purpose and is appropriate.
Authors and acknowledgements
The survey was developed by Jennifer Lasley, based on the PVS Sustainable Laboratories Mission Data Entry Tool. Dashboards were developed by Emmanuel Appiah and Jennifer Lasley. Co-authors of the peer-reviewed manuscript were Ms Jennifer Lasley, MPH, Mr Emmanuel Appiah, Dr Kazunobu Kojima, and Dr Stuart Blacksell.
Contributions were made by Keith Hamilton, Matthew Stone, David Harper, members of our ad hoc Group on Sustainable Laboratories, and Benjamin Nyange.
This work was possible through the financial support received from the Weapons Threat Reduction Program of Global Affairs Canada.