The 15th of April each year is observed as International Biomedical Laboratory Science Day since the first edition in Oslo, Norway in 1996.
The day is set aside by International Federation of Biomedical Laboratory Scientists to enlighten the public on the crucial role the Biomedical Laboratory Scientists also known as Medical Laboratory Scientists play in health care services, health research, health administration and management.
In Nigeria, medical laboratory scientists are trained and certified professionals who studied medical laboratory science for 5 years and subsequently undertake a one year compulsory internship, which is a thorough practical drill on general laboratory practice. Upon completion on internship, the graduate medical lab scientist proceeds for one year national youth service corp. In Nigeria, they are certified and licenced by the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria
The theme for this year’s Biomedical Laboratory Science Week is Antimicrobial Resistance: Biomedical Laboratory Scientists Respond to the Global Threat. Antimicrobial resistance is today a major public health burden.
Microorganisms are modifying their genetics to alter their susceptibility to hitherto effective drugs. This phenomenon is aided by:
1. The overuse of antimicrobials. People take medications without due prescription by licensed professionals. It is unfortunate today that all sort of professionals today prescribe drugs to unsuspecting patients.
2. Another reason is medication without prior laboratory tests. Unless a lab confirmation of an infectious agent is established, any treatment initiated amounts to guess work and can predispose to drug resistance. Prescriptions without lab confirmatory tests is a great disservice to the unsuspecting public and must be avoided by all. Patients must begin to demand quality and holistic medical services by saying NO to this malpractice.
3. Again, another reason is the veterinary use of antimicrobials in feed composition as fish and poultry growth enhancers. The use when not regulated exposes the organisms to suboptimal concentrations of drugs which with subsequent exposure fail to kill the organisms as a result of the onset of drug tolerance.
4. Again, the inability of people to take the full course of their drugs is another factor. Some patients when given a 5 day prescription, abandon the treatment half way when they begin to feel better thinking they are okay. At this stage, the plasma concentration has not hit and stabilized at a peak to ensure complete clearance of the agent. With the discontinuation of the medication, the organisms recover from the initial shock and develop resistance against same drugs such that subsequent exposure to them does not kill the organisms any more.
6. Nosocomial emergence. The use of disinfectants in hospitals and medical laboratories must be reviewed. This will include quality assurance from production of disinfectants, composition for usage in hospitals, duration of stay in disinfectant jars and processes of inactivation and eventual discard. These processes when scientifically observed, will eliminate the breeding of drug resistant organisms in the hospital settings.
Lastly, It is important to note that development of resistance by organisms as a result of genetic mutation is largely responsible for emerging and reemerging infectious agents. This is because a mutant varies genetically from the original or parent organism. When this genetic variation as reflected on the 16S ribosomal RNA does not show more than 70% DNA- DNA homology with existing strains of the organisms, the mutant is then identified as an entirely new organism and named as such. This phenomenon is responsible for the recent emergence type C strain of meningitis ravaging Nigerians. In summary, antimicrobial resistance could lead to evolution of new organisms which will not only defy treatment with existing antimicrobials but also lead to vaccine failure as available vaccines fail to protect against emergent strains of organisms.
The above concern is the reason for the emphasis on this area by Medical Laboratory Scientists today worldwide.
Chairman, Assocaition of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, NVRI Vom