Strengthening the Tuberculosis Specimen Referral Network in Uganda: The Role of Public-Private Partnerships

J Infect Dis. 2016 Apr 15;213 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S41-6. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiw035.


Background: Diagnosis of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and prompt initiation of effective treatment rely on access to rapid and reliable drug-susceptibility testing. Efficient specimen transport systems and appropriate training on specimen referral contribute to optimal and timely access to tuberculosis diagnostic services.

Methods: With support and technical assistance from a public-private partnership (PPP) between Becton Dickinson and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Uganda National TB Reference Laboratory (NTRL) and National TB and Leprosy Program redesigned the tuberculosis specimen transport network and trained healthcare workers with the goal of improving multidrug-resistant tuberculosis detection.

Results: Between 2008 and 2011, the PPP mapped 93% of health facilities and trained 724 healthcare and postal staff members covering 72% of districts. Strengthening the tuberculosis specimen referral system increased referrals from presumptive multidrug-resistant tuberculosis cases by >10-fold, with 94% of specimens reaching the NTRL within the established target transport time.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates the potential of PPP collaborations with ministries of health to positively influence patient care by strengthening laboratory systems through increased access to drug-susceptibility testing in Uganda. Ongoing efforts to integrate specimen transport networks will maximize resources and improve patient management.

Keywords: Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Uganda; drug suscpectibility testing; multidrug-resistant tuberculosis; public-private partnership; specimen referral.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Health Facilities*
  • Health Personnel / education
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Laboratories / organization & administration*
  • Laboratories / standards
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / isolation & purification*
  • National Health Programs
  • Public-Private Sector Partnerships*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Specimen Handling*
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis / microbiology
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / microbiology
  • Uganda