Clinical presentation and outcomes in children with retinoblastoma managed at the Uganda Cancer Institute

Background. The majority of patients with retinoblastoma, the most common intraocular cancer of childhood, are found in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs), with leukocoria being the most common initial presenting sign and indication for referral. Findings from the current study serve to augment earlier findings on the clinical presentation and outcomes of children with retinoblastoma in Uganda. Methods. This was a retrospective study in which we reviewed records of children admitted with a diagnosis of retinoblastoma at the Uganda Cancer Institute from January 2009 to February 2020. From the electronic database, using admission numbers, files were retrieved. Patient information was recorded in a data extraction tool. Results. A total of 90 retinoblastoma patients were studied, with a mean age at the first Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) presentation of 36.7 months. There were more males (57.8%) than females, with a male to female ratio of 1.37 : 1. The majority (54.4%) had retinoblastoma treatment prior to UCI admission. The most common presenting symptoms were leukocoria (85.6%), eye reddening (64.4%), and eye swelling (63.3%). At 3 years of follow-up after index admission at UCI, 36.7% of the patients had died, 41.1% were alive, and 22.2% had been lost to follow-up. The median 3-year survival for children with retinoblastoma in our study was 2.18 years. Significant predictors of survival in the multivariate analysis were follow-up duration (), features of metastatic spread (), history of eye swelling (), and bilateral enucleation (). Conclusions. The majority of children who presented to the Uganda Cancer Institute were referred with advanced retinoblastoma, and there was a high mortality rate. Retinoblastoma management requires a multidisciplinary team that should include paediatric ophthalmologists, paediatric oncologists, ocular oncologists, radiation oncologists, and nurses.

Enhancing the value of short term volunteer missions in health from host country perspectives: the Case of Uganda

Short-term medical missions (STMMs), estimated to involve 1.6 million volunteers and US$2-3 billion annually, can be very valuable, but there is a growing critique of practices. Serious concerns have arisen around possible harms to host countries and patients, including medical errors, non-alignment with local systems and priorities, cultural insensitivity, and the high cost compared to benefits. Scholars and practitioners across diverse sectors involved-faith-based, corporate, NGO, and educational-have questioned the value of STMMs and proposed strategies for improving them. Missing from this assessment are voices of host communities and research on host country efforts to control the quality of visiting programs. In this study, we investigated host perspectives on STMMs. The study was driven by the need to examine the regulatory and policy environment as well as to establish the perspectives of all country stakeholders on STMMs with the view of enhancing their value. This research is a collaborative effort between researchers at Uganda Christian University in Mukono, Uganda and Lehigh University, PA, United States of America. A qualitative methodology was adopted, with in-depth interviews as the main tool. A total of 46 interviews with policy makers, Non-Governmental Organisations and those who have engaged with volunteers in the communities were conducted in Uganda. The analysis was computer-assisted and thematic. The study revealed that the health needs of the country are many, and STMMs contribute to closing some of the gaps, although this may be limited given the scope of needs. Some of these health needs include limited infrastructure and budget support for health, low levels of staffing and inadequate resources such as equipment in the facilities. It was further revealed that the contributions made are bi-directional, with host communities claiming that they contribute towards pre-visit preparations, accommodation, local expertise on tropical diseases, and social support while volunteers contribute skills, treatment, equipment, awareness and research. Nevertheless, from the perspective of stakeholders interviewed, STMM volunteers face challenges such as cultural shock, inadequate resources to work with, manpower to support them, high expectations from the communities and delay in clearance for practice. Despite their contributions, the study established that host communities expressed concerns about the nature of STMMs involving lack of experience, hidden interests, misalignment with community needs, security risks, code of conduct and sustainability of support. A review of Ugandan laws reveals many that are related to the regulation of health services, but none that specifically mentions short-term mission trips. Most stakeholders interviewed were unaware of any regulatory oversight of visiting health teams, although some were aware of the need for clearance of visitors’ credentials. It is therefore recommended that in order to enhance the value of STMMs in Uganda, concrete actions be taken involving improving and making known the conditions for licensing and oversight, improving communication, enhancing collaboration and supporting capacity building for local experts.

The structure, function and implementation of an outcomes database at a Ugandan secondary hospital: the Mbarara Surgical Services Quality Assurance Database

The Mbarara Surgical Services Quality Assurance Database (Mbarara SQUAD) is an outcomes database of surgical, obstetric and anaesthetic/critical care at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, a secondary referral hospital in southwestern Uganda. The primary scope of SQUAD is the assessment of the outcomes of care. The primary outcome is mortality. The aim is to improve the quality of care, guide allocation of resources and provide a platform for research. The target population includes all inpatients admitted for treatment to the surgery service, the obstetrics and gynaecology services, and the intensive care unit (ICU). Data collection was initiated in 2013 and closed in 2018. Data were extracted from patient charts and hospital logbooks. The database has over 50 000 patient encounters, including over 20 000 obstetrics and gynaecology admissions, 15 000 surgical admissions and 16 000 otolaryngology outpatient visits. Entries are coded using the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) for diagnoses, and the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) for procedures. The completeness and accuracy of the data entry and the coding were validated. Governance of data use is by a local steering committee in Mbarara. The structure, function and implementation of this database may be relevant for similar hospital databases in low-income countries.

Antimicrobial stewardship: Attitudes and practices of healthcare providers in selected health facilities in Uganda

Though antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) programmes are the cornerstone of Uganda’s national action plan (NAP) on antimicrobial resistance, there is limited evidence on AMS attitude and practices among healthcare providers in health facilities in Uganda. We determined healthcare providers’ AMS attitudes, practices, and associated factors in selected health facilities in Uganda. We conducted a cross-sectional study among nurses, clinical officers, pharmacy technicians, medical officers, pharmacists, and medical specialists in 32 selected health facilities in Uganda. Data were collected once from each healthcare provider in the period from October 2019 to February 2020. Data were collected using an interview-administered questionnaire. AMS attitude and practice were analysed using descriptive statistics, where scores of AMS attitude and practices for healthcare providers were classified into high, fair, and low using a modified Blooms categorisation. Associations of AMS attitude and practice scores were determined using ordinal logistic regression. This study reported estimates of AMS attitude and practices, and odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals were reported. We adjusted for clustering at the health facility level using clustered robust standard errors. A total of 582 healthcare providers in 32 healthcare facilities were recruited into the study. More than half of the respondents (58%,340/582) had a high AMS attitude. Being a female (aOR: 0.66, 95% CI: 0.47–0.92, P < 0.016), having a bachelor’s degree (aOR: 1.81, 95% CI: 1.24–2.63, P < 0.002) or master’s (aOR: 2.06, 95% CI: 1.13–3.75, P < 0.018) were significant predictors of high AMS attitude. Most (46%, 261/582) healthcare providers had fair AMS practices. Healthcare providers in the western region’s health facilities were less likely to have a high AMS practice (aOR: 0.52, 95% CI 0.34–0.79, P < 0.002). In this study, most healthcare providers in health facilities had a high AMS attitude and fair AMS practice.

Antibody levels and protection after Hepatitis B vaccine in adult vaccinated healthcare workers in northern Uganda

Hepatitis B vaccine has contributed to the reduction in hepatitis B virus infections and chronic disease globally. Screening to establish extent of vaccine induced immune response and provision of booster dose are limited in most low-and-middle income countries (LMICs). Our study investigated the extent of protective immune response and breakthrough hepatitis B virus infections among adult vaccinated healthcare workers in selected health facilities in northern Uganda. A cross-sectional study was conducted among 300 randomly selected adult hepatitis B vaccinated healthcare workers in Lira and Gulu regional referral hospitals in northern Uganda. Blood samples were collected and qualitative analysis of Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), Hepatitis B surface antigen antibody (HBsAb), Hepatitis B envelop antigen (HBeAg), Hepatitis B envelop antibody (HBeAb) and Hepatitis B core antibody (HBcAb) conducted using ELISA method. Quantitative assessment of anti-hepatitis B antibody (anti-HBs) levels was done using COBAS immunoassay analyzer. Multiple logistic regression was done to establish factors associated with protective anti-HBs levels (≥ 10mIU/mL) among adult vaccinate healthcare workers at 95% level of significance. A high proportion, 81.3% (244/300) of the study participants completed all three hepatitis B vaccine dose schedules. Two (0.7%, 2/300) of the study participants had active hepatitis B virus infection. Of the 300 study participants, 2.3% (7/300) had positive HBsAg; 88.7% (266/300) had detectable HBsAb; 2.3% (7/300) had positive HBeAg; 4% (12/300) had positive HBeAb and 17.7% (53/300) had positive HBcAb. Majority, 83% (249/300) had a protective hepatitis B antibody levels (≥10mIU/mL). Hepatitis B vaccine provides protective immunity against hepatitis B virus infection regardless of whether one gets a booster dose or not. Protective immune response persisted for over ten years following hepatitis B vaccination among the healthcare workers.

Prevalence of Paediatric Surgical Conditions in Eastern Uganda: A Cross-Sectional Study

The role of surgery in global health has gained greater attention in recent years. Approximately 1.8 billion children below 15 years live in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Many surgical conditions affect children. Therefore, paediatric surgery requires specific emphasis. Left unattended, the consequences can be dire. Despite this, there is a paucity of data regarding prevalence of surgical conditions in children in LMIC. The present objective was to investigate the prevalence of paediatric surgical conditions in children in a defined geographical area in Eastern Uganda.

A cross-sectional study was carried out in the Iganga-Mayuge Health and Demographic Surveillance Site located in Eastern Uganda. Through a two-stage, cluster-based sampling process, 490 households from 49 villages were randomly selected, generating a study population of 1581 children. The children’s caregivers were interviewed, and the children were physically examined by two medical doctors to identify any surgical conditions.

The interview was performed with 1581 children, and 1054 were physically examined. Among these, the overall prevalence of any surgical condition was 16.0 per cent (n = 169). Of these, 39 per cent had an unmet surgical need (66 of 169). This is equivalent to a 6.3 per cent prevalence of current unmet surgical need. The most common groups of surgical condition were congenital anomalies and trauma-related conditions.

Surgical conditions in children are common in eastern Uganda. The unmet need for surgery is high. With a growing population, the need for paediatric surgical capacity will increase even further. The health care system must be reinforced to provide services for children with surgical conditions if United Nations Sustainability Development Goal 3 is to be achieved by 2030.

Implementation of the World Health Organization Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System in Uganda, 2015-2020: Mixed-Methods Study Using National Surveillance Data

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an emerging public health crisis in Uganda. The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Action Plan recommends that countries should develop and implement National Action Plans for AMR. We describe the establishment of the national AMR program in Uganda and present the early microbial sensitivity results from the program.

The aim of this study is to describe a national surveillance program that was developed to perform the systematic and continuous collection, analysis, and interpretation of AMR data.

A systematic qualitative description of the process and progress made in the establishment of the national AMR program is provided, detailing the progress made from 2015 to 2020. This is followed by a report of the findings of the isolates that were collected from AMR surveillance sites. Identification and antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) of the bacterial isolates were performed using standard methods at both the surveillance sites and the reference laboratory.

Remarkable progress has been achieved in the establishment of the national AMR program, which is guided by the WHO Global Laboratory AMR Surveillance System (GLASS) in Uganda. A functional national coordinating center for AMR has been established with a supporting designated reference laboratory. WHONET software for AMR data management has been installed in the surveillance sites and laboratory staff trained on data quality assurance. Uganda has progressively submitted data to the WHO GLASS reporting system. Of the 19,216 isolates from WHO GLASS priority specimens collected from October 2015 to June 2020, 22.95% (n=4411) had community-acquired infections, 9.46% (n=1818) had hospital-acquired infections, and 68.57% (n=12,987) had infections of unknown origin. The highest proportion of the specimens was blood (12,398/19,216, 64.52%), followed by urine (5278/19,216, 27.47%) and stool (1266/19,216, 6.59%), whereas the lowest proportion was urogenital swabs (274/19,216, 1.4%). The mean age was 19.1 (SD 19.8 years), whereas the median age was 13 years (IQR 28). Approximately 49.13% (9440/19,216) of the participants were female and 50.51% (9706/19,216) were male. Participants with community-acquired infections were older (mean age 28, SD 18.6 years; median age 26, IQR 20.5 years) than those with hospital-acquired infections (mean age 17.3, SD 20.9 years; median age 8, IQR 26 years). All gram-negative (Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Neisseria gonorrhoeae) and gram-positive (Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus sp) bacteria with AST showed resistance to each of the tested antibiotics.

Uganda is the first African country to implement a structured national AMR surveillance program in alignment with the WHO GLASS. The reported AST data indicate very high resistance to the recommended and prescribed antibiotics for treatment of infections. More effort is required regarding quality assurance of laboratory testing methodologies to ensure optimal adherence to WHO GLASS–recommended pathogen-antimicrobial combinations. The current AMR data will inform the development of treatment algorithms and clinical guidelines

Mobile Ecological Momentary Assessment and Intervention and Health Behavior Change Among Adults in Rakai, Uganda: Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

An extraordinary increase in mobile phone ownership has revolutionized the opportunities to use mobile health approaches in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Ecological momentary assessment and intervention (EMAI) uses mobile technology to gather data and deliver timely, personalized behavior change interventions in an individual’s natural setting. To our knowledge, there have been no previous trials of EMAI in sub-Saharan Africa.

To advance the evidence base for mobile health (mHealth) interventions in LMICs, we conduct a pilot randomized trial to assess the feasibility of EMAI and establish estimates of the potential effect of EMAI on a range of health-related behaviors in Rakai, Uganda.

This prospective, parallel-group, randomized pilot trial compared health behaviors between adult participants submitting ecological momentary assessment (EMA) data and receiving behaviorally responsive interventional health messaging (EMAI) with those submitting EMA data alone. Using a fully automated mobile phone app, participants submitted daily reports on 5 different health behaviors (fruit consumption, vegetable consumption, alcohol intake, cigarette smoking, and condomless sex with a non–long-term partner) during a 30-day period before randomization (P1). Participants were then block randomized to the control arm, continuing EMA reporting through exit, or the intervention arm, EMA reporting and behavioral health messaging receipt. Participants exited after 90 days of follow-up, divided into study periods 2 (P2: randomization + 29 days) and 3 (P3: 30 days postrandomization to exit). We used descriptive statistics to assess the feasibility of EMAI through the completeness of data and differences in reported behaviors between periods and study arms.

The study included 48 participants (24 per arm; 23/48, 48% women; median age 31 years). EMA data collection was feasible, with 85.5% (3777/4418) of the combined days reporting behavioral data. There was a decrease in the mean proportion of days when alcohol was consumed in both arms over time (control: P1, 9.6% of days to P2, 4.3% of days; intervention: P1, 7.2% of days to P3, 2.4% of days). Decreases in sex with a non–long-term partner without a condom were also reported in both arms (P1 to P3 control: 1.9% of days to 1% of days; intervention: 6.6% of days to 1.3% of days). An increase in vegetable consumption was found in the intervention (vegetable: 65.6% of days to 76.6% of days) but not in the control arm. Between arms, there was a significant difference in the change in reported vegetable consumption between P1 and P3 (control: 8% decrease in the mean proportion of days vegetables consumed; intervention: 11.1% increase; P=.01).

Preliminary estimates suggest that EMAI may be a promising strategy for promoting behavior change across a range of behaviors. Larger trials examining the effectiveness of EMAI in LMICs are warranted.

Trial Registration: NCT04375423;

Feasibility of establishing an infant hearing screening program and measuring hearing loss among infants at a regional referral hospital in south western Uganda

Despite the high burden of hearing loss (HL) globaly, most countries in resource limited settings lack infant hearing screening programs(IHS) for early HL detection. We examined the feasibility of establishing an IHS program in this setting, and in this pilot program measured the prevalence of infant hearing loss (IHL) and described the characteristics of the infants with HL.

We assessed feasibility of establishing an IHS program at a regional referral hospital in south-western Uganda. We recruited infants aged 1 day to 3 months and performed a three-staged screening. At stage 1, we used Transient Evoked Oto-acoustic Emissions (TEOAEs), at stage 2 we repeated TEOAEs for infants who failed TEOAEs at stage 1 and at stage 3, we conducted Automated brainstem responses(ABRs) for those who failed stage 2. IHL was present if they failed an ABR at 35dBHL.

We screened 401 infants, mean age was 7.2 days (SD = 7.1). 74.6% (299 of 401) passed stage 1, the rest (25.4% or 102 of 401) were referred for stage 2. Of those referred (n = 102), only 34.3% (35 of 102) returned for stage 2 screening. About 14.3% (5/35) failed the repeat TEOAEs in at least one ear. At stage 3, 80% (4 of 5) failed the ABR screening in at least one ear, while 25% (n = 1) failed the test bilaterally. Among the 334 infants that completed the staged screening, the prevalence of IHL was 4/334 or 12 per 1000. Risk factors to IHL were Newborn Special Care Unit (NSCU) admission, gentamycin or oxygen therapy and prematurity.

IHS program establishment in a resource limited setting is feasible. Preliminary data indicate a high prevalence of IHL. Targeted screening of infants at high risk may be a more realistic and sustainable initial step towards establishing IHS program s in a developing country like Uganda.

Increasing Antimicrobial Resistance in Surgical Wards at Mulago National Referral Hospital, Uganda, from 2014 to 2018—Cause for Concern?

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) are major global public health challenges in our time. This study provides a broader and updated overview of AMR trends in surgical wards of Mulago National Referral Hospital (MNRH) between 2014 and 2018. Laboratory data on the antimicrobial susceptibility profiles of bacterial isolates from 428 patient samples were available. The most common samples were as follows: tracheal aspirates (36.5%), pus swabs (28.0%), and blood (20.6%). Klebsiella (21.7%), Acinetobacter (17.5%), and Staphylococcus species (12.4%) were the most common isolates. The resistance patterns for different antimicrobials were: penicillins (40–100%), cephalosporins (30–100%), β-lactamase inhibitor combinations (70–100%), carbapenems (10–100%), polymyxin E (0–7%), aminoglycosides (50–100%), sulphonamides (80–100%), fluoroquinolones (40–70%), macrolides (40–100%), lincosamides (10–45%), phenicols (40–70%), nitrofurans (0–25%), and glycopeptide (0–20%). This study demonstrated a sustained increase in resistance among the most commonly used antibiotics in Uganda over the five-year study period. It implies ongoing hospital-based monitoring and surveillance of AMR patterns are needed to inform antibiotic prescribing, and to contribute to national and global AMR profiles. It also suggests continued emphasis on infection prevention and control practices (IPC), including antibiotic stewardship. Ultimately, laboratory capacity for timely bacteriological culture and sensitivity testing will provide a rational choice of antibiotics for HAI.