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Govt allows only two medical labs to do DNA tests

Government through the Ministry of Health has authorized only two medical laboratories to carry out DNA paternity tests in Uganda.

Minister for Health Dr Jane Ruth Aceng (Photo/File)

KAMPALA, UGANDA: Government through the Ministry of Health has revealed that only two medical laboratories are accredited and certified to carry out DNA paternity tests in the country.

While addressing journalists on Monday, the Minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng named the Government Analytical Laboratory (GAL) in Wandegeya and MBN Clinical Laboratories on Nakasero Road as the only certified labs nationally and internationally to conduct the DNA tests countrywide.

According to Aceng, both laboratories are certified by the government regulatory authorities -the Allied Health Practitioners’ Council (AHPC) and Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council (UMDPC) and accredited by international accreditation bodies.

“The equipment, technologies and reagents being used for DNA paternity testing within the two certified laboratories (GAL and MBN) are validated and found to be sound standards, and this was part of the basis for their certification and/ or international accreditation,” Dr Aceng said.

“There have been suspicions that some unscrupulous agents might have smuggled fake equipment or reagents (kits) for DNA paternity testing into the country. I have been informed of some Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) purported to be home-based DNA test kits, some of which are available,” added the Minister.

Dr Aceng also warned that these RDTs are not validated for use in Uganda and therefore not allowed into the country, whether for use in public or in private purposes.

Nevertheless, she explained that there are several other laboratories in Uganda which are accredited and certified to do DNA testing for diagnostic and research purposes, like investigating trends in Covid-19, TB, HIV, Sickle Cell, Hepatitis B and Cancers.

“These are; Central Public Health Laboratories (CPHL), National TB Reference Laboratory (NTRL), Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC) and Laboratories at Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), Makerere and Mbarara Universities.”

Minister Aceng further noted that her ministry is aware that several laboratories have come out purporting to do DNA paternity testing whereas they only collect samples and ship them for testing elsewhere, either within or outside the country.

She cautioned that various equipment and technologies can be used for DNA testing and several of those are being promoted in the country but it is very important that Laboratories use only the methods that have been validated for use in the country.

The Minister added that no laboratory or any facility shall ship any samples for DNA paternity testing outside the country except with special clearance from the Director General of Health Services and/ or Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST).

She also noted that any Laboratory that is prepared and wants to do DNA paternity testing can apply to the Director General of Health Services who will set up a team of experts to assess the Laboratory for certification.

The development comes in the wake of continued demand for true parentage status of children, with majority of men decrying the marital infidelity of their partners which has made them sire children out of the marriage wedlock and raise them without their true paternity.

DNA Testing Regulation

To reduce irregulated cases of DNA Testing, Minister Aceng directed the Department of National Health Laboratory and Diagnostic Services of MOH to work with National Drug Authority (NDA) and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to ensure these fake DNA rapid test kits are not used for testing because they will get wrong results.

“I want to caution Ugandans not to use these rapid kits or accept these alleged rapid kits or accept these alleged rapid DNA test kits to be used for testing them because they will get wrong results. The Ministry will continue to provide standards and regulatory oversight necessary to ensure that all laboratory processes, including DNA paternity testing guarantee quality and reliability of DNA paternity testing services in the medium and long term,” she said.

She also guided that DNA testing is done only by laboratories that have been authorized for testing through certification and accreditation.

“Only qualified professionals will be allowed to do testing. Only certified laboratories will be allowed to collect DNA test samples. Only the two certified/accredited Laboratories, GAL in Wandegeya and MBN Clinical Laboratory on Nakasero Road, both in Kampala, shall be allowed to do DNA paternity testing in Uganda for now,” she said.

The Minister also warned both the traditional media as well as social media players to report about DNA paternity responsibly to avoid the negative impact on the mental health of the affected children, the families and society at large.

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