The deployment of mobile diagnostic laboratories for Ebola virus disease diagnostics in Sierra Leone and Guinea

Lance D. Presser, Jeanette Coffin, Lamine Koivogui, Allan Campbell, Julian Campbell, Fatmata Barrie, Jone Ngobeh, Zein Souma, Samuel Sorie, Doris Harding, Alimou Camara, Pepe Tohonamou, Basala Traore, Frank A. Hamill, Joe Bogan, Sharon Altmann, Casey Ross, Jay Mansheim, Robert Hegerty, Scott PoynterScott Shearrer, Carmen Asbun, Brendan Karlstrand, Phil Davis, Jane Alam, David Roberts, Paul D. Stamper, Jean Ndjomou, Nadia Wauquier, Mohamed Koroma, Alhaji Munu, Jason McClintock, Mar Mar, True Burns, Stephen Krcha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Ebola virus emerged in West Africa in December 2013. The ease of mobility, porous borders, and lack of public health infrastructure led to the largest Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak to date. Intervention: The 2013 EVD outbreak signalled the need for laboratory diagnostic capabilities in areas without strong public health systems. As part of the United States’ Department of Defense response, MRIGlobal was contracted to design, fabricate, equip, deploy, and operate two mobile diagnostic laboratories (MDLs). The first laboratory analysed blood samples from patients in an adjacent Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) and buccal swabs from the deceased in the community in Moyamba, Sierra Leone. The second laboratory was deployed to support an ETC in Conakry, Guinea. The Department of Defense provided real-time quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction assays that were deployed and validated on-site. Lessons Learnt: Prompt and accurate molecular diagnostics reduced sample turn-around times from over 24 h to under 4 h. Experienced laboratory staff tested up to 110 samples per day and on-site engineering proved necessary for MDL setup and operation. As the Ebola response slowed, the sustainment of the MDLs’ operations was prioritised, including staff training and the transition of the MDLs to local governments. Training programmes for local staff were prepared in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Recommendations: The MRIGlobal MDL team significantly contributed to establishing increased laboratory capacity during the EVD outbreak in West Africa. Using the MDLs for molecular diagnosis is highly recommended until more sustainable solutions can be provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbera1414
JournalAfrican Journal of Laboratory Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Diagnostics
  • Ebola
  • Ebola virus
  • Epidemic
  • Guinea
  • Laboratory capacity
  • Mobile diagnostic laboratories
  • Outbreak
  • Outbreak response
  • Service expansion
  • Sierra Leone
  • West Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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