ASLM Strengthens National Efforts in Biosafety and Biosecurity in Tanzania under the GHSA
Increases in urbanization and the movement of people at national and international levels have led to increased risk for disease outbreaks, bioterrorism and other health emergencies of global concern. Globalization means shared threats, therefore, biosafety and biosecurity concerns have become global priorities for addressing health-related and economic safety . In order to help address this at a national level, the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) organized a national biosafety and biosecurity stakeholders’ meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from 15-16 May 2017, in collaboration with its Tanzania-based implementing partners, Health Links Initiative (HLI), US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) via its CDC Cooperative Agreement to implement the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA).
With a range of national and international stakeholders represented, the meeting aimed to:
- Determine major steps towards the development of a legal framework for biosafety and biosecurity in Tanzania, including its major components;
- Review Tanzania’s national biosafety and biosecurity priorities in line with the National Costed Action Plan (2016-2021); and
- Harmonize and strengthen the biosafety and biosecurity technical working group in Tanzania.
Meeting attendees first highlighted key challenges, including the need to establish and implement appropriate and valid biosafety and biosecurity procedures to better control or minimize the risks associated with handling, transporting, storing and disposing of biological agents and toxins. The scattered nature and lack of harmonization of the laws and acts that govern biosafety and biosecurity were mentioned. Additional challenges include the weak awareness and lack of training on biosafety and biosecurity and biorisk management at the regional and local levels.
The national stakeholders then worked to find the best strategy possible for Tanzania to implement biosafety and biosecurity nationwide. They agreed to focus on laboratory biosafety and biosecurity as a starting point. As such, the group looked carefully at the key issues and developed detailed recommendations for activities to implement overall laboratory strengthening with regard to biosafety and biosecurity in Tanzania. Recommended next steps were to:
- Work on a legal framework for laboratory biosafety and biosecurity with all relevant components, such as registration, facilities requirements, education requirements, research approval, policies and regulations on imports/exports;
- Implement the legal framework by incorporating safety issues in all sectors, including human, animal, food, water and environmental health;
- Consider a harmonized approach for all clinical, teaching and research laboratories.
By the end of the meeting, the national stakeholders had reviewed the priorities from the National Costed Action Plan in the context of the challenges identified. They determined that efforts going forward should be on developing a costed national biorisk management strategic plan; implementing a biosafety and biosecurity training plan at zonal, regional labs, and veterinary laboratories; developing guidelines and procedures for biobanking and inventorying; developing guidelines and procedures for sample transportation; and reviewing guidelines and procedures for waste management; among others.
“Given what we presently know about biosafety and biosecurity in the context of laboratory practice, it is critical that our African countries prioritize attaining international biosafety and biosecurity standards and protecting our health workers and greater community via biosafety and biosecurity regulation,” said Mah-Sere Keita, ASLM Director of Global Health Security. “ASLM salutes Tanzania for spearheading these efforts at a national level and were pleased to participate in the elaboration of its national biosafety and biosecurity laboratory improvement framework.”
By: Ms. Koudedia Konate, ASLM; Mr. Mah-Sere Keita, ASLM
Editors: Ms. Bethanie Rammer; ASLM
 Saker L, Lee K, Cannito B, Gilmore A, Campbell-Lendrum, D. Globalization and infectious diseases: A review of the linkages. Special Topics in Social, Economic and Behavioural (SEB) Research. World Health Organization, 2004. http://www.who.int/tdr/publications/documents/seb_topic3.pdf
CDC Disclaimer: This news article was supported by the Grant or Cooperative Agreement Number, NU2GGH001847, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.