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Free Content Safety in laboratories carrying out sputum smear microscopy: a dilemma for resource-poor countries

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Laboratory conditions and procedures for sputum smear microscopy (acid-fast bacilli) were assessed in 38 hospitals throughout Malawi. Of these, 17 (45%) had an area of less than 25 m2, eight (21%) had a separate room for tuberculosis work, and five (13%) had a safety cabinet. All laboratory personnel wore gloves, but in several hospitals there was no white coat, face mask, protective apron or soap for washing hands. Different disinfectants were used to clean work surfaces, only one laboratory decontaminated sputum specimens before disposal, and the laboratory cleaner was usually responsible for waste disposal. Laboratory conditions and safety procedures in Malawi are poor, indicating a need for education, training and supervision of staff.

Keywords: Tuberculosis; laboratory safety; smear microscopy

Document Type: Short Communication

Affiliations: 1: National Tuberculosis Control Programme, Community Health Sciences Unit, Lilongwe, Malawi 2: Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK

Publication date: August 1, 1998

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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