The Polio Surveillance Lab at the National Institute of Health also supports testing from Afghanistan and Yemen

ISLAMABAD, JULY 20, 2023 – The Pakistan Polio Laboratory was declared the best in 146 laboratories across the world by the Technical Advisory Group, Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel said on Thursday, while inaugurating the newly-extended laboratory at the National Institute of Health.

“It gives me great pride to see that the Polio Programme in Pakistan is being supported by a state-of-the-art lab, with modern equipment and excellent, well-trained staff,” said Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel, adding, “The lab is leading polio surveillance not just in the country, but also providing support to Afghanistan and Yemen.”

The minister inaugurated the extension of the Polio Lab along with Dr Chris Elias, President of the Global Development Division of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Chair of the Polio Oversight Board, which was visiting Pakistan.

The Pakistan Polio Laboratory at NIH started operations in 1994 for testing of stool specimens reported by the Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance system in Pakistan. The laboratory’s capacities were scaled-up over the years with the adoption of advanced technologies in poliovirus diagnostics like real-time PCR and basic genetic sequencing.

The Lab is one of 16 Regional Reference Labs in the world and was recently acknowledged as the best polio laboratory in the world by experts of GPEI’s Technical Advisory Group. The extension will play a critical role in supporting the enhanced surveillance network of the Pakistan Polio Programme.

During 2022, the Programme has increased the number of environmental sampling sites by over 50%, with 114 sites in 80 districts across Pakistan now. The country now has the largest environmental surveillance network anywhere in the world.

Speaking at the inauguration, Dr Shahzad Baig, the Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication said: “Strengthening the polio network and providing technical assistance today is an investment in a healthier and more resilient Pakistan tomorrow. As we progress towards eradicating this infectious disease from our country, the legacy of our efforts will resonate for years to come, leaving behind a stronger healthcare system and a brighter future for our people.”

Federal Secretary of Health Iftikhar Ali Shallwani also attended the event along with POB delegates and representatives of polio eradication partners.