Isle lab to aid control of TB in Pacific nations
A three-year federal contract is awarded to Diagnostic Laboratory Services
South Pacific governments will get help from a Hawaii laboratory to prevent, detect and control tuberculosis.
Diagnostic Laboratory Services, which also has laboratories in Saipan and Guam, has received a three-year contract from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the program.
The company will provide clinical laboratory TB testing to Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Majuro, Saipan, Ebeye, Palau, Yap, Pohnpei, Kosarae, Chuuk and American Samoa.
One of the goals is to find out how extensive it is and control it as rapidly as possible, Dr. Matthew Bankowski, Diagnostic Laboratory Services vice president and technical director of microbiology and diagnostic services, said in an interview.
He said the laboratory will look for resistance of TB bacterium to antibacterial drugs to try to determine the most effective drugs for treatment.
Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis and especially the "extensively drug-resistant" form have posed major treatment problems, Bankowski said. XDR tuberculosis hasn't come to Hawaii, but it has been reported in 37 countries, including the United States.
TB samples from the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas previously were sent to Hawaii's state lab, said Dr. Jesse Wing, CDC medical officer in charge of the state TB program. Other samples were sent to California, she said. Now, all are going to Diagnostic Laboratory Services.
"I think it's good for the state," she said. "It will allow us hopefully to develop our capacity locally. It's good for the region."
She said CDC has been working with Pacific jurisdictions and conducting trainings for more than three years to try to improve their TB control.
"If they can take care of it at home, they won't have to travel to Hawaii," Wing said.
DHS contracted with the Pacific Island Health Officers Association, a Hawaii-based laboratory, to provide training and competency testing of laboratory personnel in the various island nations.
Diagnostic Laboratory Services, with 600 employees, offers comprehensive testing services and specializes in infectious diseases. The company is expanding molecular infectious-disease testing services with Bankowski, an authority on molecular microbiology and infectious diseases.
The CDC contract was awarded competitively on the basis of technical expertise and experience, Bankowski said.
All sputum samples that test positive for TB, as well as most of the others, will be sent to the Honolulu laboratory for rapid identification with molecular methods, he said.
Diagnostic Laboratory President Richard Okazaki, in a news release, said, "With our specialty in infectious disease and our existing locations on Guam and Saipan, Diagnostic Laboratory Services is ideally positioned to provide these important health services to this underserved area."