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[DAR ES SALAAM] Tanzania's first ever machine for rapid analysis of multiple DNA samples has been welcomed by scientists, who say it will revolutionise research in the country.

The 3100 Genetic Analyser, made by Applied Bio Systems in Japan, can analyse 96 samples in an hour. Until now, researchers have had to perform a manual analysis that takes 72 hours for a single sample.

"It is the first time we have had such a machine in Tanzania," said Gloria Tom Machuve, head of forensic biology at the Government Chemist Laboratory Agency, where the machine was installed this month. "It is a saviour to the research sector."

Machuve told SciDev.Net that in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, only Botswana and South Africa have similar machines — one in Kenya is now out of order.

Machuve says the analyser has a wide range of uses, including medical research and disease diagnosis, crime detection, and agricultural research, including studies of both livestock and crops.

Private institutions and universities conducting research are invited to use the US$300,000 genetic analyser, so long as they abide by government protocols regarding its use.

"If there is any good news this year for our university, then it is the arrival of the Genetic Analyser machine," says Frances Magingo, head of botany at the University of Dar es Salaam. "We used to take genetic samples to Sweden ... our masters degree students in molecular biology had to board buses to Nairobi for genetic analysis."

Magingo told SciDev.Net that having the machine will remove the need for such travel, and attendant costs.

"The machine will solve a lot of research problems," says Magingo. "You will go with your sample in the morning and in the evening have the results."

But Machuve warns that the GCLA also needs more personnel trained to use the machine.

"Currently we have only three experts," says Machuve. "We need to have at least 12 experts trained to masters level to manage and run the machine efficiently."