KMU-PHRL reconstitutes hierarchy to tackle future outbreaks

PESHAWAR: Organisational structure of the Public Health Reference Laboratory (PHRL) at Khyber Medical University (KMU) has been reinforced with specialists in infectious diseases and public health.

A statement from the university stated that Dr Yasar Mehmood Yousafzai will work as director PHRL, Dr Asif Ali as additional director PHRL, Dr Inayat Shah as in-charge serology, Dr Ihsan ullah in-charge Mobile Lab BCL-2, Dr Taj Ali Khan in-charge Microbiology, Dr Saeed Ur Rahman in-charge Molecular Biology, Dr Ishaq Khan in-charge Advance Centre for Genomics Technologies and Dr Khalid Rahman as Public Health Consultant.

The change has been done as part of ‘The PHRL Transformation Plan’. Under the plan, in addition to Covid-19 testing, PHRL will initiate testing of 40 modifiable diseases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As per the plan, Covid-19 testing capacity will be utilised, and additional 4 laboratories of PHRL will be strengthened. These include serology, microbiology, genomic sequencing, molecular biology, and mobile testing laboratory. With these changes, PHRL will be able to test BSL-II plus level dangerous pathogens such as Congo fever, Dengue fever, Typhoid, and Cholera.

Meanwhile, KMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Zia ul Haq appreciated the workforce at PHRL for making this ambitious plan. He stated that the lab leadership, including Dr Yasar Yousafzai and Dr. Asif Ali, have worked hard to establish and recognise the lab with exemplary performance during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the province of KP has no central facility for the diagnosis of many other diseases of public health significance. Therefore, it is necessary that PHRL not only initiates testing of commonly endemic diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dengue, and measles but also prepares for unforeseen outbreaks such as Congo-Crimean Hemorrhagic fever.

The PHRL has carried out around about 1.6 million Covid-19 tests so far and the purpose of an infectious diseases laboratory is with testing infectious diseases, prevention of outbreaks, and give policy guidelines. Such a role is performed by the National Institute of Health at the federal level and is being assumed by the PHRL at the provincial level as per new mandate.