Philomena Raftery , Orla Condell, Christine Wasunna, Jonathan Kpaka, Ruth Zwizwai, Mahmood Nuha, Mosoka Fallah, Maxwell Freeman, Victoria Harris, Mark Miller, April Baller, Moses Massaquoi, Victoria Katawera, John Saindon, Philip Bemah, Esther Hamblion, Evelyn Castle, Desmond Williams, Alex Gasasira, Tolbert Nyenswah
Raftery P, Condell O, Wasunna C, Kpaka J, Zwizwai R, Nuha M, et al. (2018) Establishing Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) diagnostics using GeneXpert technology at a mobile laboratory in Liberia: Impact on outbreak response, case management and laboratory systems strengthening. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 12(1): e0006135. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0006135
Publication year: 2018

Abstract

The 2014–16 Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa highlighted the necessity for readily available, accurate and rapid diagnostics. The magnitude of the outbreak and the re-emergence of clusters of EVD cases following the declaration of interrupted transmission in Liberia, reinforced the need for sustained diagnostics to support surveillance and emergency preparedness. We describe implementation of the Xpert Ebola Assay, a rapid molecular diagnostic test run on the GeneXpert platform, at a mobile laboratory in Liberia and the subsequent impact on EVD outbreak response, case management and laboratory system strengthening. During the period of operation, site coordination, management and operational capacity was supported through a successful collaboration between Ministry of Health (MoH), World Health Organization (WHO) and international partners. A team of Liberian laboratory technicians were trained to conduct EVD diagnostics and the laboratory had capacity to test 64–100 blood specimens per day. Establishment of the laboratory significantly increased the daily testing capacity for EVD in Liberia, from 180 to 250 specimens at a time when the effectiveness of the surveillance system was threatened by insufficient diagnostic capacity. During the 18 months of operation, the laboratory tested a total of 9,063 blood specimens, including 21 EVD positives from six confirmed cases during two outbreaks. Following clearance of the significant backlog of untested EVD specimens in November 2015, a new cluster of EVD cases was detected at the laboratory. Collaboration between surveillance and laboratory coordination teams during this and a later outbreak in March 2016, facilitated timely and targeted response interventions. Specimens taken from cases during both outbreaks were analysed at the laboratory with results informing clinical management of patients and discharge decisions. The GeneXpert platform is easy to use, has relatively low running costs and can be integrated into other national diagnostic algorithms. The technology has on average a 2-hour sample-to-result time and allows for single specimen testing to overcome potential delays of batching. This model of a mobile laboratory equipped with Xpert Ebola test, staffed by local laboratory technicians, could serve to strengthen outbreak preparedness and response for future outbreaks of EVD in Liberia and the region.