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UMB supports MoH in task-shifting COVID-19 testing

June 01, 2022

Malawi has a high burden of infectious diseases, most of which come in the form of HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. Laboratory tests are essential to treating Malawians for these diseases. Malawi has, however, had gaps in laboratory certification, and the efficiency, capacity, and quality of laboratory services has proved challenging—an especially problematic development in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ciheb Malawi, through the Accelerating Malawi’s PEPFAR Laboratory Logistics and Infrastructure for Quality (AMPLIFY) program, sought to improve laboratory services.

To expand access to COVID-19 testing to rural and hard-to-reach areas, the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Malawi decentralized testing from laboratories using conventional molecular platforms. The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) – Ciheb Malawi AMPLIFY program trained laboratory personnel in peripheral facilities in using rapid antigen testing that can be performed by non-laboratory staff. The MOH started using COVID-19 rapid antigen testing in November 2021 and has continued expanding this service to new testing sites.

Participants in practical sessions

So far, 520 sites have been trained, and UMB staff are currently conducting COVID-19 rapid antigen testing. UMB – Ciheb Malawi AMPLIFY program supported the MOH in training 39 rural health facilities (in Nkhata-bay [26] and Chiradzulu [13] districts) in COVID-19 rapid antigen testing between January 2022 and March 2022. A total of 119 non-laboratory personnel were trained. Trainings, delivered through presentations and practicals, have covered COVID-19 testing options, quality assurance, sample collection, antigen testing guidelines, data management, diagnostic supply management, testing workflow, safety, and infection prevention and control. UMB plans to cover at least five more districts and train at least 180 more MOH staff.

With trained staff now providing COVID-19 and infectious disease testing for the people of Malawi, more people will now have access to testing that meets international standards. This, in turn, will help diagnosis and treatment efficiency  improve for Malawians.


Center for International Health, Education, and Biosecurity
Institute of Human Virology
Tyler New
Scientific Writer

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