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Building global capacity to handle disease threats

Course Instructor provides an overview of cabinet features during hands-on session during a biological safety cabinet certification training in Tanzania.

In June 2023, 15 professionals from Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen gathered at Tanzania’s National Public Health Laboratory in Dar es Salaam with one common goal: to gain an understanding in certifying biological safety cabinets. Proper certification to verify that biological safety cabinets function as designed by the manufacturer is vital to a laboratory’s capacity to safely handle infectious materials, a need that is only amplified during disease outbreaks. The four-day course was packed with demonstrations, discussions and measurement practice.

A biological safety cabinet is a specialized type of laboratory equipment that provides a clean work environment and protects laboratory staff when working with infectious agents or toxins. Biological safety cabinets have high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that trap biohazards and ensure that only microbe-free exhaust air is discharged from the cabinet. They provide important protections but must be properly maintained.

Prior to 2022, pursuing biological safety cabinet certification training required travel to North America or scheduling visits from North American experts. Recognizing the unsustainable nature of this arrangement, APHL partnered with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), subject matter experts and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Science (MUHAS) in Dar es Salaam to create and launch a three-week online course followed by in-person hands-on practice at the Tanzania National Public Health Laboratory.

This course is taught by MUHAS instructors who are mentored and coached by the course developer, a subject matter expert from Thermo Fisher Scientific. The course prepares participants to complete the NSF Basic Accreditation testing.

Professionals attending the course this summer were only the second cohort to go through the training program, and almost all came from the public sector. Of the 15 course participants, 11 stayed on immediately following the hands-on portion to complete the three-day NSF accreditation testing. Those who pass NSF’s written and seven practical tests will be listed as NSF-accredited certifiers. Thanks to ongoing collaboration with APHL and partners, MUHAS intends to offer the course and bring NSF to Tanzania every summer, which will continue to build global capacity for handling disease threats.

Click through this slideshow to see photos from the training:

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