Concept

Over the course of the project – which is coordinated by the Bernhard-Nocht-Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) in Hamburg, Germany – three deployable mobile laboratory units for the detection and diagnosis of infectious pathogens up to the highest risk group 4 will be put into operational readiness. The underlying concept of a modular and deployable mobile laboratory was developed by the leading partner for technical implementation of the laboratory units and training, Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (InstMikroBioBW) in Munich, Germany, and has already been deployed to international training missions and to investigate outbreaks in the past. This modular system is adapted for multinational outbreak response missions in Africa and Europe.

One laboratory unit will be located at the Institute for Lassa Fever Research and Control (ILFRC) at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH), Irrua, Nigeria. Lassa fever and other viral diseases are endemic to many parts of Nigeria. ISTH has been in close collaboration with the Bernhard-Nocht-Institute since 2007 in the field of Lassa fever diagnostics and research and is dedicated to high-quality molecular and serology diagnostics of Lassa fever. The establishment of further capacities that will be flexible in their operation and deployable to the sites of outbreaks is highly desirable. 

A second unit will be located at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. NIMR was established in 1979 and has since then built a strong record in carrying out medical research and response to infectious disease threats. East-African countries are often hit by various infectious disease outbreaks, like Rift Valley hemorrhagic fever, and there is the need to strengthen the national and regional capacity to respond. NIMR has long-standing collaborations with scientific partners all over the world and a proven record of directing high-level research projects. Shipment of this unit to NIMR is planned for the first half of 2014.

A third unit is located in Europe at the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (InstMikroBioBW). This unit is staffed by the European partners of the project consortium and will be ready to respond to outbreaks that cannot be reached by the two units in Africa. The unit is serviced by the team of the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology, who are also conducting the extensive and modular training program in order to prepare responders for field missions. After review and approval, this unit will mobilize and respond to requests by entities like the World Health Organization (WHO) through its Global Outbreak and Response Network (GOARN), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) as well as the ministries and public health authorities of the affected countries.

Scientists from the two above-mentioned African institutions will be hosted in European research facilities for extensive training. Training activity will not only include the operation of the lab units and equipment itself but also extensive practice of molecular biological and serological methods to conduct interepidemic research projects on infectious diseases.