Objectives: Implementation of standard laboratory practices towards accurate antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) is challenging in resource-constrained settings. Efforts to improve AST are required to address knowledge and practice gaps in such settings. In this study, we aimed to address these gaps through external quality assurance surveys and mentoring of laboratories in Pakistan. Methods: This prospective study (May 2017–September 2019) included 10 consenting laboratories. External quality assessment (EQA) was conducted quarterly and performance scored. Each EQA cycle was followed by an on-site technical visit during which AST methodology, quality procedures and laboratory safety were evaluated using a questionnaire developed for this study. Cumulative scores of performance in the EQA and in the technical evaluation were designated “Composite Laboratory Performance Score; CLPS”. During on-site visits, feedback provided was to each participating laboratory towards addressing gaps identified. Results: Over the course of the study, our data show significant improvement in CLPS amongst the laboratories included. While improvement in the CLPS scores varied between laboratories, a linear regression model showed improvement within the cohort from 21.37 (May 2017) to 91.5 (September 2019); a significant overall increase of 70.13 points (p = 0.001). Conclusion: Interventions to improve AMR surveillance include quality assured reporting of antimicrobial resistance. Our data show that in resource-limited settings EQA surveys and on-site evaluations followed by guidance contribute towards such improvement. We propose that this model would be a useful tool for laboratory strengthening in such settings.
- Antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST)
- Composite Laboratory Performance Score (CLPS)
- External quality assessment (EQA)
- Technical evaluation