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Sickle cell disease is a national problem that has covered all parts of the country. The number of people with the trait in Uganda is high and that’s the reason why we have many babies born with the disease.  In some high burden districts, 1 out of 4 has the trait whereas country wide, 1 out of 7 has a trait.  The challenge has been in lack of diagnostic materials to screen for the disease or trait. But now, Ministry of Health, through The Uganda National Health Laboratory Services has a fully capable Sickle cell laboratory and also a program running in health facilities called the New Born Screening program. This is where all babies born will be screened for the sickle cell gene/trait. It also takes in all children below the age of 2 years. This service is free of charge. It's  is aimed at detecting the disease at an early stage so that interventions are started early to reduce the mortality rate. It will also show how many children are born with the sickle cell trait in Uganda.

The Uganda National Sickle Cell Laboratory, Demonstrates efficiency (~2000 samples per week) and high accuracy (trait and disease >99% accuracy), Recently doubled capacity in equipment, space and additional personnel, Tests samples desginated for sickle cell testing, from high-burden disrticts and (+) HIV positive, Conducts outreach screening events, New equipment and training in DNA-based confirmation for Sickle Cell by polymerase chainreaction (PCR)

Sickle Cell Newborn Screening; The sceening begins 12-14 highest, burdens districts, mid Northern and East Central regions, maternity wards for in-hospitals births, health care facilities, immunization clinics, Screening must be done to all newborns within the hub, collection should occur before 2-3 months of age, children under 2 years

In order to enable traning at different hub/stations like at Regional Referral Hospitals we; We allocate 1 full day of training per site, Co-ordinate through sample transport hub system, Invite (Physicians, Laboratory Technicians, Sample transport co-ordinators), Comprehensive sickle cell curriculum, Establishment of a local sickle cell clinic



National Microbiology Reference Laboratory

The National Microbiology Reference Laboratory is the first unit that started off the Central Public Health Laboratories (CPHL) in 1983.It was established to provide laboratory support for the various vertical Disease Control Programs within the Ministry of Health, especially in disease surveillance and outbreak investigation.

Microbiology is the study of Micro-organisms (parasites, bacteria, fungi and viruses) , so the main purpose of this laboratory is to diagnose  infections caused by bacteria, fungi and parasites. With our sophisticated equipment and highly trained human resource, as a reference laboratory, we detect or confirm the causes of epidemics and local infections.

The core functions of the unit include:

  • Laboratory-based surveillance of communicable diseases
  • Disease outbreak investigation
  • Environmental hygiene monitoring (monitoring water sources, air, soil, for infectious agents)
  • Monitoring food hygiene (testing foods and beverages for infectious agents ) including hygiene of food handlers
  • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR monitoring – Monitoring the trend bacteria become resistant to the commonly used antibiotics.)

Roles we play/ what we do                                                                        

  • We respond to epidemics within Uganda  and cross boarder
  • We support surrounding health facilities with culture and sensitivity testing for purposes of managing their patients
  • We do environmental monitoring to prevent outbreaks
  • We monitor antibiotic resistance to ensure appropriate use of antibiotics and inform antibiotic policy development

Uganda National Health Services Bio repository is an establishment at the Uganda National Health Laboratory Services(UNHLS) storing  a variety of specimen types such as Dried Blood Spots (DBS), plasma, swabs, urine, microbiology isolates received through some of the various ongoing Health Programmes such as the Early Infant Diagnosis (EID), HIV viral load testing, Sickle cell testing and Outbreak surveillance from health facilities across the country .The UNHLS bio-repository also stores remnants of clinical samples from research institutions, external research projects and principal investigators, providing the ethical framework to collect and store samples according to regulatory requirements, and ensures fair access to the samples for research purposes.

The national coverage nature of specimen received at UNHLS provides a unique opportunity to investigate questions of national public health or policy importance in a speedy and cost effective manner. The UNHS bio-repository improves accountability, promote research ethics to minimize biosecurity risks that could raise from uncontrolled storage and use of biological specimen.


The UNHLS bio-repository is owned by the Government of Uganda under the custodianship of Uganda National Health Laboratories Services (UNHLS) and its activities are overseen by the Ethics legal and social implications committee (ELSI). ELSI receives requests and approves access to bio-repository specimens based on the scientific soundness of the proposed research, and prospective benefits of expected outcome, and also monitors the activities directly arising from released specimen put to intended use and adherence to ethical research conduct.

The day to day running of the bio-repository activities are done by trained laboratory technologists under the supervision of the bio-repository manager

STORAGE CAPACITY                                                                                         

 UNHS bio-repository has a number of ultra-low freezers, - 200   freezers and a 12ft by 4ft cold room for storage of bio specimen in appropriate conditions. The biorepository also employs liquid nitrogen tanks for appropriate storage of samples.





Storage capacity for biological specimen, remnants of clinical samples from research institutions, external research projects and principal investigators

A variety of national coverage samples for research purposes



  1. HIV positive DBS samples
  2. HIV positive Plasma samples
  3. Microbiology isolates
  4. Hepatitis B positive DBS samples
  5. Hepatitis B positive plasma samples
  6. Sickle cell trait positive DBS samples



  • Apply for ethical approval from a research ethics committee(RECs)
  • Download the application form here
  • Application form will be assessed by the Ethics legal and social implications committee (ELSI) and you will be contacted with feedback


  • Researchers interested to use the bio specimen stored in the UNHSB are required to submit the research proposals to RECs for review and approval
  • Associated data if required, shall be de-identified/de-linked of patient information 
  • If the samples required need to be linked to identifiers, the RECs may decide on a case-by-case basis


Our standard Business hours:
Mon-Fri – 8:30am to 5pm
Sat-Sun - Closed


Mr.SSewanyana Isaac

Lab Director NHLS

Ministry of Health

Ms. Hellen Nansumba

Bio-repository manager

National Health Laboratory and Diagnostic Services

Ministry of Health Uganda