Research Diagnostic Group

Point-of-care Research Group of the National Priority Programme

One of the priorities of the National Priority Programme (NPP) to address the national Department of Health's need to provide increased access to patient testing and treating, is to investigate the feasibility of point-of-care testing (POCT) in the developing world - specifically, to address the integration of HIV and TB services in more remote sites.
The NHLS has initiated a POC working group and the NPP together with clinical partners and external funding bodies has established the first pilot POC clinic laboratory at the Helen Joseph Hospital to determine the feasibility of multidisciplinary POC testing for HIV/TB treatment initiation and monitoring. Currently in South Africa no guidelines or diagnostic algorithms are available for HIV and TB POC testing.
The NPP will focus on these issues as well as develop platforms for multiple instrument interfacing and laboratory/clinic interfacing, appropriate external quality assessment, training modules for nurse operation of POC tests, determine patient and healthcare worker POC acceptability criteria,  develop the protocols required for urban and remote POC implementation and investigate the clinical effectiveness, cost effectiveness and safety, with a view to establishing national POCT policy and guidelines.
The research group from the Department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology, NHLS/University of the Witwatersrand, involved in the pilot project are Professors Wendy Stevens, Lesley Scott, Debbie Glencross, Ms Natasha Gous, Ms Matilda Nduna, Dr Jaya George from the Department of Chemical Pathology, NHLS/University of the Witwatersrand, and Dr Gerrit Coetzee from the National TB Reference Laboratory.

Through Grand Challenges Canada and the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 22 new proposals for Point-of-Care Diagnostics that are easy to use, low cost, multiplexed, and able to assess disease stage and provide information on prognosis have been awarded funding. One such project is that awarded to Professor Wendy Stevens:

Feasibility of multi-disciplinary POCT in an HIV treatment clinic and determine impact on patient outcome

This multi-disciplinary team will assess the safety, cost effectiveness and impact on clinical outcome of implementing point-of care testing for HIV and tuberculosis in several different clinical settings in South Africa. The aim is to create a sustainable vehicle for future point-of-care evaluation and expansion and to provide sufficient information to inform national policy decisions, bearing in mind the need for equity, affordability and accessibility.

For more information about this award, click here
For an August - October 2012 update to the POC project, click here