Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)

With 13,204 Suspected Cases, Nigeria Develops National Diphtheria Laboratory

As Diphtheria cases continue to raise, the Federal Government is finalising the development of the National Diphtheria Laboratory to conduct preliminary and confirmatory testing in the country.

This is even as the government said there have been 13,204 reported suspected cases, out of which 8,406 were confirmed cases from 114 Local Government Areas in 18 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa disclosed this on Tuesday at a press briefing on the update of the disease in Abuja.

“Our records have shown that most of the confirmed cases of diphtheria in the country were unvaccinated against diphtheria. Of the 8,406 confirmed cases, 5,371 (64 per cent) are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, 966 (11 per cent) with unknown vaccination status while 2,069 (25 per cent) are fully vaccinated against diphtheria,” Adetifa stated.

Diphtheria, caused by a toxin produced by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae, is a vaccine-preventable disease covered by one of the vaccines provided routinely through Nigeria’s childhood immunisation schedule.

The NCDC boss noted that the Federal Ministry of Health through the NCDC and National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), and partners has continued to work with the Ministry of Health of affected states to respond to diphtheria outbreaks across different states in the country.

“Last week the national diphtheria taskforce deployed National Rapid Response Teams to Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Jigawa and Zamfara to support the outbreak response in the State across all pillars. I also want to use this opportunity to thank our partners at the World Bank, the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Children’s Fund, Médecins Sans Frontières, GAVI, and Breakthrough Action Nigeria, amongst others for their continued support of the national response,” he added.

Read Also: Pentavalent Vaccine Remains Most Effective Protection Against Diphtheria – NCDC

Adetifa said the recently deployed NRRT is offering on-site surveillance and response support to affected States in areas of active case search in communities and health facilities.

He, however, noted that security challenges are limiting the accessibility of some teams to some locations in affected LGAs across states.

“Through the laboratory network, we continue to conduct preliminary and confirmatory testing at sub-national and national levels respectively. Currently, we have 14 laboratories in the Diphtheria Laboratory Network with capacity to support diphtheria testing. Optimisation of five additional laboratories at the subnational is currently ongoing.

“We have conducted training for laboratory personnel at the sub-national level on laboratory diagnostic processes, quality assurance, biosafety and biosecurity procedures, and data management. With the support of our partners including UKHSA, WHO and MSF we have been able to conduct refresher training for the deployed National Rapid Response Team laboratory personnel.

“Currently, there is an ongoing installation of laboratory equipment (biosafety cabinets, autoclaves, and incubators) in Kaduna, Katsina and Bauchi states to aid the optimisation of labs in the states. There is also continuous provision of technical support to public health laboratory scientists across States. We are currently finalising the development of the National Diphtheria Laboratory,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib said in recent months, the government launched rapid and comprehensive vaccination campaigns across the affected regions.

He added that the government has undertaken a comprehensive approach that includes disseminating public health advisories through media engagement and webinars, developing and distributing diphtheria social and behaviour change materials, and coordinating stakeholders’ meetings for risk communication and community engagement.