Last Thursday, April 26, 2012, was an historic day in the microbiology lab at the Takeo Provincial Hospital. A styrofoam cold box arrived, by bus, from the National Institutes of Public Health Lab in Phnom Penh. The box contained the first external quality assurance (EQA) specimens sent to a microbiology lab in Cambodia. Ever. There were three slants with organisms in the box and the lab is required to identify them and send in the results within 10 days. Each specimen came with a short description of the symptoms of the patient from whom the organisms were isolated. This initiative was supported by the World Health Organization. Specimens were sent to five Cambodian microbiology laboratories in this first round. It is essential that a laboratory receive EQA specimens on a regular basis to challenge the capacity of the microbiologists to correctly identify bacteria and parasites.
After receiving the cold box in the lab, Angelo Caon, a VIDA volunteer microbiologist, and Ph. Seang Sosorphea, chief of the laboratory, examine the three specimens and associated paperwork.