In 2017, the Central Reference Laboratory (hereinafter – CRL) was opened in Kazakhstan on the basis of our Center. Its main purpose is to improve the technological and methodological capabilities of controlling especially dangerous infections and conducting research to prevent mass epidemics in the country.
The mission of the laboratory is diagnostic. Infections have no borders, and our science and medicine must be ready for them – today the country may get diseases that we have never had, an epidemic will begin. The lab is a step towards eliminating this scenario.
CRL is a 4-floor building with biosafety levels 2 and 3. In addition to the laboratory itself, for its uninterrupted operation, the necessary engineering structures have been built and equipped to provide heating, gas and electricity supply with spare autonomous generators of high power, water purification and air filtration. All engineering and technical equipment is integrated into electronic control and accounting systems. The laboratory staff includes a large group of specially trained professional profile engineers from Kazakhstan.
CRL is a structural division of the NSCEDI, which is under the authority of the Ministry of Health and is intended for the work of specialists from the Ministries of Education and Science, and Agriculture. The laboratory is equipped with the necessary modern diagnostic and research equipment, and a set of reagents for working with pathogens of especially dangerous infections.
When planning the construction of the laboratory, special attention was paid to seismic stability – as a result, a unique project was developed specifically for the conditions of Almaty, the highest coefficient was applied in the calculations of structures – 3.3. The building is designed for an earthquake of 9 points. The connection of the rods of powerful load-bearing columns is made by the coupling method produced in the Netherlands, using A-500 class fittings. A powerful concrete foundation in the form of a solid reinforced concrete slab is made under the building, under it several thousand concrete piles. To strengthen the foundation, measures are provided for the removal of ground water.
The system of biological safety and protection of CRL fully meets the requirements for technical strength of buildings and premises of the legislation of Kazakhstan for such objects.
According to the World Health Organization, every year more than 1 billion people in the world are infected with dangerous infectious diseases, of which about 16 million are fatal, and half of the world’s population is at risk of endemic diseases. Over 20 years, more than 30 new infectious diseases have been registered.
Unfortunately, highly effective long-acting vaccines for most dangerous infectious diseases, except for smallpox and tularemia, do not currently exist. In this context, the governments of the United States and the European Union have launched a number of programs aimed at preventing the spread of infections, as well as training physicians in Europe, Asia and Africa in diagnostics, biosecurity and epidemiology.
An important element of the program was the network of Central (country-specific) reference laboratories of high-class biological safety and biological protection.
These laboratories perform a number of functions:
- study and emergency response to outbreaks of especially dangerous infections using modern technologies;
- training of physicians (epidemiologists, microbiologists, infectious disease specialists and veterinarians) in modern methods of diagnostics, biosafety, biosecurity, laboratory control and field practice;
- ensuring the safe operation and storage of pathogens used in research and production of diagnostic drugs and vaccines.
Thus, with the assistance of the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Biological Threat Reduction Program, laboratories were opened in Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
For Kazakhstan, the issue of creating a modern laboratory is relevant, since, among other things, one of the sources of threat is biological weapons. Until 1992, there was a biological testing site on the territory of Renaissance Island in the Aral sea in the Soviet Union.
In this regard, Kazakhstan, within the framework of the biological threat reduction Program (known as the Nunn-Lugar senators program), participated in the elimination of infrastructure related to weapons of mass destruction testing and conversion. Within the framework of this program, medical and veterinary specialists have been trained, zonal diagnostic laboratories have been built or reconstructed and equipped. Their purpose is early professional diagnostics of infectious diseases.
Kazakhstan is actively developing international programs aimed at developing biosecurity and rapid response to outbreaks (protection of people, animals, plants and the environment from infection / contamination by pathogens), biological protection, as well as field epidemiology.
CRL in improving the biological safety of the Republic of Kazakhstan:
- BSL-2 and BSL-3 laboratories with the ability to study a wide range of human and animal bacteria and viruses
- Strengthening sanitary protection of borders against the import of diseases
- Improved response to infectious disease outbreaks
- Use of modern technologies to study especially dangerous pathogens
- Staff training with local and international partners
- Key role in the network of national and regional laboratories for work with especially dangerous human and animal pathogens
- Integrating public health and veterinary systems
Currently, the state scientific and technical program «Development of the scientific basis for a unified system for monitoring, diagnostics and microbial collection of pathogens of especially dangerous, «returning», newly emerging and imported infections» 2018-2020 is being implemented in the CRL. Program objective: development of national standards for microbiological monitoring of quarantine and especially dangerous pathogens, «returning», newly emerging and imported infections, genetic certification of strains, formation of scientific bases for ensuring the preservation and development of collections of EDI pathogens.
The international project «The Impact of Rickettsia spp. on the adaptability and development of Yersinia pestis in fleas that carry the plague in the Republic of Kazakhstan» is on the stage of completion.
The MES RK grants «Population ecological variants of the plague carrier, vector and pathogen in the Central Asian natural desert plague center» and «Improvement of experimental research with laboratory animals in the Republic of Kazakhstan» 2018-2020 are implemented using the capabilities of the CRL. 11 new project proposals have been prepared.
100 experts of Kazakhstan, half of them NSCEDI and 25 employees of MES and 25 from the Ministry of Agriculture is constantly working in CRL. All CRL specialists have been trained.
To improve mutual information and training of specialists from neighboring countries, the Association for Biological Security of Central Asia and the Caucasus was established on the initiative of NSCEDI.
It has been repeatedly reported that in our country, the issue of biological weapons is not considered at all, neither in our scientific center, nor in any other, since Kazakhstan has signed the international Convention on the prohibition of biological weapons and adheres to it. Everything else is innuendo and speculation. NSCEDI is a republican organization that has been working since 1949 and is engaged in the study of plague, cholera, brucellosis and other infections that have historically existed on the territory of Kazakhstan for centuries. They must be known in order to resist them and save lives. To do this, we train, prepare our personnel and work in special laboratories with strains of pathogens, it is an object of our research. The new laboratory only improves our conditions, our technologies, and increases the level of security of the laboratory.
The program also does not involve the import of biological material to Kazakhstan. Local pathogens are studied in the laboratory. We have enough of them, because 40% of the territory of Kazakhstan is a natural foci of the plague, we register diseases of anthrax, brucellosis. There is no need to import anything else – everything is already there, and it is from nature.
The presence of a laboratory allows to minimize the path from science to production, as in the same complex with the CRL in the NSCEDI, immunobiological vaccines are developed and produced for the diagnosis and prevention of plague, anthrax, tularemia, brucellosis and other infectious diseases.
Consumers of these drugs are medical and veterinary organizations not only in Kazakhstan, but also in Russia, Central Asia, Mongolia and the Caucasus.
CRL is integrated into the country’s significant NSCEDI’s specialists training center for especially dangerous infections for physicians, biologists and veterinary workers. Hundreds of doctors and biologists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have been trained here for decades.
The laboratory is equipped with the latest equipment – it is not available on such scale in Kazakhstan. Finally, all this requires special training of the staff. So, in general, this is a very high-tech laboratory – together with this building, the country has received advanced technologies. Yes, we are still leaders in the region in the fight against dangerous infections, because in Soviet times, our center was part of the anti-plague service system and trained personnel for the entire USSR. This work continues today – and that is why this laboratory was built. Science is constantly developing, and this step will help us move to a qualitatively higher level.
CRL is also used for holding national and international meetings and seminars.