Indra Harsaputra, The Jakarta Post, Surabaya
Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java, opened a new avian influenza laboratory Monday, giving the region a new weapon in the fight against the disease that has killed 91 people across Indonesia.
University rector Prof. Fasich presided over the opening ceremony, which was also attended by Hiroshi Ota, vice president of Japan's Kobe University and dozens of bird flu experts from both countries.
The research facility, housed in the Tropical Disease Center compound of the University, is the second bio-safety level III laboratory in the country. The other is at the Eijkman Institute of Molecular Biology at the State Ministry of Research and Technology.
"The Health Ministry has only a bio-safety level II laboratory," the new lab's head, Chairul Anwar Nidom, said.
He said the new lab was built to international standards and was equipped with the same high-tech instruments as the avian influenza lab in Hong Kong, which until now has been the Indonesian government's primary bird flu referral laboratory.
"The new laboratory will be staffed with Indonesian experts and four Japanese experts. With the operation of this facility, samples taken from suspected (bird flu) patients can be processed here. There will be no need to send them to Hong Kong any more," he said.
The Japanese government supplied the instruments and equipment for the laboratory, which is worth Rp 15 billion.
"This laboratory has the ability to process blood samples as well as samples taken from other parts of human and animal bodies," he added.
Workers at the laboratory will also investigate the patter of avian influenza's distribution across the country to construct a comprehensive picture of the disease.
"This will be a gigantic task," Chairul said.
The laboratory is the latest addition to Airlangga University's Tropical Disease Center. The center also has research facilities for hepatitis, dengue fever and HIV/AIDS.