Rapid epidemic preparedness and response with a global reach

The European Mobile Laboratory achieves certification into the European Civil Protection Pool as a German capacity

The European Mobile Lab (EMLab) managed at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) is now a certified capacity from Germany within the European Union Civil Protection Pool (ECPP). The EMLab successfully completed the rigorous three-stage certification process from the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM). The certification enables a better coordinated and more effective response to disasters. It also ensures that ECPP capacities meet high operational standards and can be regarded as reliable by any nation requesting assistance. The certification commits EMLab to the ECPP for five years and can be extended after recertification.

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In the event of an outbreak, a race against time begins. Timely diagnostics supports outbreak control efforts, improves patient care and ultimately saves lives. Mobile laboratories play a key role in such public health emergency situations. 

The EMLab specialises in the rapid and accurate diagnostics of viral pathogens up to risk group 4. Since 2014, the EMLab has been involved in combating outbreaks worldwide such as during the 2014-2016 West African Ebola virus disease epidemic, Marburg virus disease outbreaks in West and East Africa, Lassa fever outbreaks in Nigeria and the COVID-19 pandemic in both Europe and West Africa. EMLab successful deployments and day-to-day operations rely on a pool of voluntary laboratory experts from various institutions around the globe.

As a certified capacity, EMLab is committed to the European Civil Protection Pool (ECPP) by Germany and can deploy anywhere worldwide following a request for assistance and activation mechanism through the European Commission's Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC). The certification process involved a formal site visit from the European Commission, participation in an EU table-top exercise and a final large full scale field simulation exercise. Along this process, the EMLab demonstrated comprehensive operational, laboratory and interoperability expertise to successfully meet the operational standards and criteria set by the ECPP. Currently, EMLab is the only certified mobile laboratory capacity in the ECPP. 

Background information

The EMLab is coordinated by the BNITM through the Virology Department and the Institute's Mobile Laboratories service unit. It consists of a full diagnostics laboratory packed in transportable boxes which can be setup where needed. Its technical expertise includes molecular detection methods such as PCR/RT-PCR, serology, basic clinical care and viral genomic surveillance for viral pathogens up to risk group 4. The EMLab is operated by a pool of EMLab-trained laboratory experts from a network of international public health and research organisations. Since its first deployment to West Africa in 2014, the EMLab has been a key player in the response to numerous outbreaks worldwide including Ebola virus disease, Yellow fever, Marburg virus disease, Lassa fever and COVID-19. It has deployed in a number of countries including Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany and Greece. EMLab also offers the possibility to deploy laboratory experts only to support public health systems. The EMLab is part of the ECPP and of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) of the World Health Organization (WHO). Both ECPP and WHO/GOARN offer the umbrellas for EMLab deployment’s mechanisms following a request for assistance during public health emergency. Click here for more information about EMLab and the Mobile Lab group.

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