©Daid Ceruti

With an estimated 3.5% of South Africa’s 300 000 new Tuberculosis cases every year being diagnosed as drug-resistant, it became a national priority to establish a state-of-the-art laboratory to tackle the problem.

In order to build a new laboratory that is fully compliant with stringent World Health Organisation (WHO) bio-safety regulations, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) approached international consulting engineering company Royal HaskoningDHV to assist them with the design of the new National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory (NTRL).

A World-Class Partner

The NICD decided to partner with Royal HaskoningDHV based on the consultancy’s unique ability to not only interpret local and international regulations specifically for culturing laboratories, but to actually implement the required processes.

As experts in designing controlled environments, Royal HaskoningDHV professionals worked closely with the project architects and the client’s scientists to create the centre of excellence that is the NICD today.

“We know what a big problem TB is in South Africa and we really want to be part of the solution,” says Cobus van Deventer, Director for the Advisory Group Clean Rooms, at Royal HaskoningDHV.

According to NICD pathologist Dr AW Dreyer, “We constantly need to be developing and testing in order to keep curing this disease.” The world-class NICD facilitates this by providing a safe environment in which to continue the fight against TB, a disease which affects an estimated 9 million people globally.

Go behind the scenes at the NICD laboratory to find out more about how they are at the forefront of “Containing Tuberculosis”.

A Curable Disease

Tuberculosis is an easily curable disease, but through medication misuse or mismanagement, some patients can develop a resistance to the TB drugs, and, if left unchecked, this drug-resistant strain of the disease can be spread to other people.

In order to help form national policy guidelines around TB drug resistance and to improve treatment, the NICD is tasked with carrying out drug susceptibility testing in a controlled environment and monitoring the disease’s resistance to new drugs.

Cleanroom Technology

Through the use of Royal HaskoningDHV’s specialised “cleanroom” designs which all adhere to strict bio-security controls, staff at the NICD can safely test and explore new solutions to fight TB drug resistance in a facility where innovative ventilation installations and other mechanical designs protect them and the general public from any contamination.

Some of the solutions that Royal HaskoningDHV designed and implemented at the NICD laboratory include:

  • WHO-compliant changing facilities for staff
  • An air conditioning installation that circulates only 100% external air inside the building.
  • A ventilation system that treats all air leaving the facility to remove any contaminants

An internal air flow system that moves air from areas of low containment risk to areas with a high containment risk throughout the laboratory