Celebration: Guests at the Laboratory for Tissue Immunology accreditation function included (from left) Prof Ernette du Toit, Prof Antonio Nunez-Roldan, Dr Paul Reekers, Prof Frank Brombacher and Prof Mike Stuart (seated).
The Laboratory for Tissue Immunology at the UCT medical school, home of the South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR), has received the equivalent of a gold star from the European Federation of Immunogenetics (EFI). Headed by Professor Ernette du Toit, the laboratory's new accreditation means it ranks alongside similar facilities anywhere in the world.
The Federation's Professor Antonio Nunez-Roldan (Spain) and Dr Paul Reekers (Netherlands), were recently in Cape Town to complete the inspection, a process involving various quality controls and procedures.
Though the inspection took only a day to complete, the accomplishment is a milestone in Africa. This is the continent's first laboratory to receive the prestigious accreditation certificate. Nunez-Roldan, chair of the accreditation committee, and regional commissioner and inspector, said the award meant the UCT facility measured up to comparable facilities in New York, Amsterdam and London.
The EFI credential is significant as accredited laboratories perform the tissue matching techniques that are indispensable to organ donation and transplantation.
"The requirements for genetic identification for this kind of transplantation are very high," Nunez-Roldan explained. "The accreditation means any of the more than 150 accredited laboratories around the world will perform in the same way, using the same techniques."
The SABMR is a beacon of hope to thousands of South Africans with blood diseases like leukaemia.
Plucky Capetonian schoolgirl Lindy Anderson is one of those fortunate to find a matching donor for a bone marrow transplant (beating 1:100 000 odds), thanks to the registry and fundraisers, the Sunflower Fund. Recent media reports say Anderson is responding well to treatment, despite months of harsh chemotherapy and radiation and the side effects of medication that causes her face to swell.
There are over nine million donors registered worldwide but because of the presence of rare HLA (tissue typing) antigens, particularly in patients of African ancestry, forming a South African registry became vital, Du Toit said.
(You can sign up to become a donor and help people like Lindy by calling 404-6445. For more details go to the website on www.sabmr.co.za