KAMPALA – The Ministry of Health has commissioned a lab machine that has the capacity to diagnose blood cancers, especially lymphomas and leukaemia.
The flow cytometry machine, which is located at the Uganda National Health Laboratories (UNHL) in Butabika, Kampala can detect the different blood cancers in a period of 24 hours or one day, unlike the traditional microscope.
Flow cytometry is a technology that is used to analyse the physical and chemical characteristics of particles in a fluid as it passes through at least one laser. Cell components are fluorescently labelled and then excited by the laser to emit light at varying wavelengths.
At the commissioning on Thursday, the Minister for Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, said the new machine detects the presence and extent of cancers in the blood, including the residue cancer cells that may remain after treatment.
“The turnaround time is one day and includes the results being brought here, analyzed and sent online through other results referral network system. So then they are able to print and send to the different heads of laboratories in the different hospitals and take the decision in real time,” Dr Aceng said.
She urged health workers around the country to utilise the lab for handling all complicated cancer cases.
“The practice has been that if a health worker suspects there is something wrong with the blood, a patient is referred mainly to Uganda Cancer Institute or the private facilities that also sometimes refer the samples abroad for further analysis. So the process has been very cumbersome and so by the time you get results it’s quite late to treat the patient,” Dr Aceng said.
Dr Jackson Orem, the executive director of Uganda Cancer Institute, described the new machine as a relief for cancer patients, adding that it can tell the type of blood cancers, unlike the microscopes which hardly tell the difference between a normal and abnormal cell.
The laboratory will also be able to detect the Hepatitis B Viral load Laboratory and strengthen the country’s response to Viral Hepatitis B.
The minister also revealed that three Laboratories in Kiryandongo General Hospital, Kayunga General Hospital and St. Raphael of St. Francis Nsambya Hospital have received also International accreditation.
Accreditation means that the laboratory has provided objective evidence that it has quality and competence to provide services to customers.
Flow cytometry enables researchers to more efficiently examine and characterize key markers such as small molecules, nucleic acids, as well as peptide and protein targets at the single cell level within the same experiment. Moreover, this analysis can be measured over time to better understand the regulatory mechanisms involved in cellular signaling, especially rare events.