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NTRL Automates TB Diagnostics

Kampala- 28th September, 2023

According to WHO, Uganda is among the 30 Tuberculosis (TB) high-burden countries in the world, with 91,000 new cases identified every year. Each year, approximately 91,000 people in Uganda contract TB, with 32% of them being HIV-infected. Two out of every 100 people with TB have drug-resistant TB that is not cured by first-line drugs, while approximately 15% of TB cases in Uganda are children aged below 14 years.

To address the country's TB burden, the Ministry of Health (MoH) developed the TB and Leprosy Strategic Plan for 2020/21-2024/25, which emphasizes patient care among other interventions. The country has also adopted the TB test and treat initiative to respond to this burden.

The National TB Reference Laboratory (NTRL) has taken a significant step forward by automating reporting of TB screening and diagnostics data through its innovative connectivity solution, Labxpert disease surveillance.

According to Julius Tumwine, the lead developer of the application, Labxpert is a web-based system that supports automated real-time data capture from the Genexpert, Truenat, Afinion, Digital X-ray machines and any other laboratory equipment. It also facilitates monitoring of equipment utilization, functionality, inventory management, and the linkage of patients to treatment by sending alerts to patients and clinicians in real time.

During the NHLDS laboratory sector performance review meeting, the NTRL team led by Prof. Moses Joloba presented Labxpert to stakeholders, highlighting some key functionalities and advantages, including:

  • Real time data reporting for various diseases, not only TB but also HIV, COVID-19, and HPV.

  • Real time monitoring of set indicators e.g total tests per site, positivity, error rates, etc

  • Timely linkage of patients to treatment.

  • It monitors RR (drug-resistant) cases in real time.

  • Labxpert tracks the functionality of instruments in real time.

  • It monitors module functionality.

  • Labxpert tracks error rates per facility in real time.

  • It analyzes utilization per facility, district, region, and implementing partner.

  • Staff motivation through daily performance reviews and recognition of best performers

Julius emphasized, "The system is 100% paperless, as it includes built-in digital request forms. Direct integration of diagnostic equipment eliminates over 95% of manual transcription and interpretation, resulting in more than an 80% improvement in turnaround time (TAT) in laboratory processes. The system automatically retrieves and interprets results from any lab equipment."