When a patient has suspected tuberculosis (TB), it’s vital to get quick and accurate test results from a laboratory professional because swift treatment can be crucial to eventual recovery.
Lola Sheralieva, a lab specialist at a TB clinic in Uzbekistan’s Bukhara region, has built her professional skills with the help of USAID’s TB Control Program – in which Project HOPE is a key partner.
Since childhood, Sheralieva has been passionate about microbiology. “The microscope was my favorite toy,” she reflects, “and even though I started my professional career as a nurse, when an opportunity presented itself for me to work at a laboratory, I was eager to take it.”
When Sheralieva began work at the TB clinic in 2010, the lab was dark and cramped and didn’t have the equipment necessary to diagnose TB. Specimens collected from patients had to be sent 600 km away to a central lab in the nation’s capital, Tashkent, for testing. Results took as long as three months, dangerously delaying treatment for patients who tested positive for TB. Not only did the wait jeopardize a patient’s chance of a complete recovery, it also increased the chance of the disease spreading to family and other people.
Over the past year, Sheralieva’s lab has been undergoing a dramatic transformation and is now a regional diagnostic powerhouse providing rapid and accurate TB test results in the regions of Bukhara and Navoi. The lab, in a building newly constructed by the Government of Uzbekistan, features state-of-the-art TB testing equipment that can not only provide results in just two hours, but can also precisely identify what drugs will most effectively treat a patient’s particular strain of the disease.
But equipment is only half the battle. It’s equally important that lab technicians like Sheralieva have the skills and training necessary to provide high quality and accurate testing.
Since 2015, Project HOPE, an implementing partner of USAID’s TB Control Program, has trained nearly 200 lab technicians in advanced testing technologies and has provided much needed testing supplies to TB laboratories in Uzbekistan’s Bukhara, Kashkadarya, Navoi and Khorezm regions. Through extensive training programs, master classes and study tours in Uzbekistan and abroad, lab staff have honed their skills in advanced molecular testing methods and quality management.
“It is amazing how quickly my lab has improved its testing speed and accuracy. After all, accurate and timely diagnosis of TB is critical for a patient’s recovery,” says Sheralieva. “A perfect laboratory is a safe laboratory.”
To ensure a safe work environment for staff and to minimize the risks of specimen contamination, USAID has also provided training in infection control and biosafety. With the knowledge and skills gained through the training, lab technicians now have the confidence to implement facility-wide quality management systems and develop procedures to ensure lab operations with international biosafety and infection control requirements.
“I would not be where I am today without the skills received through USAID training. Laboratory services are the cornerstone of TB care and it feels great to deliver TB test results with guaranteed accuracy and on time,” says Sheralieva. “After all, we are dealing with human life.”
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