Success – qRT-PCR system arrived in Karachi

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Karachi, 16 July 2019 – Almost a year ago Iqbal and Sammer, members of the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences in Karachi/Pakistan, applied for a GCRF NTD network equipment fund. They were in need of a CFX96 Touch™ Real-Time PCR Detection System: not much bigger than a white shoebox with a touchscreen, it is used for Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a method widely used in molecular biology to make many copies of a specific DNA segment. The Center can now identify heterogeneous genes, discover anti-leishmanial leads for better care of patients and study susceptibility and resistance patterns of different leishmanial strains in the Pakistani population.

ICCBS members didn’t lose time: within a week of arrival of the Real-Time PCR Detection System (white box on the right on top of the desk), they were ready to use their new equipment. Sammer Yousuf (2nd from left) and Director Iqbal Choudhary (right) applied for a GCRF NTD network equipment fund

Leishmaniasis is highly prevalent in Pakistan and has been reported from all the provinces and almost all major cities; alone cutaneous leishmaniasis is estimated to affect 15.000–20.000 people every year. Although it is not life threatening, the skin lesions and scars have devastating effects on local communities.

Specialised lab equipment is expensive: in this case, the price exceeded the limit of £10.000 for equipment funding, so the Institute in Pakistan paid the missing US$13.000 – a truly international project.

While ordering lab equipment in UK is normally quite straight forward, ICCBS had to go through a rigorous process of three tenders, publish invitations for bids in newspapers and evaluate tenders.

The Institute was well prepared once the PCR system finally arrived: within a week, staff had their first training course. Over time, the ICCBS is planning to set up training courses of experiments of leishmanial infectivity across Pakistan and develop into a dedicated research unit for the neglected tropical disease.