Mobile Laboratory


Our team aims at strengthening the laboratory capacity of requesting countries to timely prepare for and respond to infectious diseases outbreaks caused by viral pathogens up to risk group 4, such as Ebola virus. As part of this mandate, we also coordinate, together with the Virology department of the BNITM, the European Mobile Laboratory (EMLab) which offers 10 years of experience in field deployment during emergency operations. In collaboration with local partners, our group further supports the implementation of long-term capacity building programs in endemic areas. We are partners of multiple networks including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), the European Civil Protection Pool and the German Epidemic Preparedness Team (SEEG/GIZ).

The scene takes place in the evening. Three scientific staff members are in a laboratory room processing incoming suspected Ebola virus samples. One of them is wearing full personal protective equipment, including a face shield and long green rubber gloves, to receive the suspect samples through the lab window above a work bench. A second person hangs decontaminated lab requisition forms on a line to dry. The third person sits in front of a glovebox and prepares to inactivate the suspect samples.
Receipt and inactivation of suspect samples in the CPHL-EAC mobile laboratory during the Sudan Ebola virus outbreak in Uganda.   ©BNITM
A room with nine laboratory team members sitting in a circle discussing the implementation of new standard operating procedures (SOP) in the CPHL-EAC mobile laboratory during the Sudan Ebola virus outbreak in Uganda. One person leads the discussion using a computer on which agenda items are displayed. The other staff members take notes or listen (Mubende, November 2022; CPHL: Central Public Health Laboratories, EAC: East Africa Community).
Discussion by the laboratory team on the implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in the CPHL-EAC mobile laboratory during the Sudan Ebola virus outbreak in Uganda.   ©BNITM
Two trainees are seen in personal protective equipment, dressed in a blue smock and green gloves. One trainee is working in the negative pressure glovebox and inactivating suspicious samples. He holds a pipette and pipettes the contents of a microcentrifuge tube. The other person (also called a buddy) observes the entire process to ensure that laboratory procedures for handling suspected viral hemorrhagic fever samples are followed. Because this was a master's course training, the specimens to be processed were not infectious.
Glovebox training as part of the IDOH master course "Mobile containment lab" at Hannover Medical School (MHH) in November 2022.   ©BNITM

We very closely work with various BNITM departments and units, as well as with external collaborators, partners and networks, to provide state-of-start laboratory expertise for pathogens up to risk group 4. Our major focus is on highly pathogenic RNA viruses yet we can quickly adjust to broaden our portfolio of expertise when emergency arises as highlighted with COVID-19 and Mpox. Thanks to many years of fundamental and applied laboratory research, capacity building activities, and EMLab deployments in resource limited settings, we offer a unique set of skills and broad knowledge to support public health surveillance systems and or operational research during non-outbreak and outbreak situations. We actively take part of various teaching opportunities (EPICID, Lab Sphere) and also organize EMLab training once a year to sustain the pool of EMLab experts. We like to develop harmonized processes and training curricula to allow for a sustainable approach ensuring that the pool of experts operating such mobile laboratories deliver comparable data at quality. In line with this, we supported the establishment of the Nigerian-Mobile Laboratory at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua, Nigeria, which we still jointly managed. Our pool of experts also assisted with set-up and training of the East Africa Community (EAC) Mobile Laboratories for Ebola virus (2018-2019).


We are currently expanding the EMLab units and services offered in support to outbreak response activities. EMLab is part of the European Civil Protection Pool (ECPP) of Germany and is WHO/GOARN partner.

In a nutshell, our core activities can be summarized as follows:

  • Provide laboratory expertise and related-training in the field of diagnostics, serology and or sequencing of viral hemorrhagic fevers and other outbreak-prone viral diseases
  • Support the surveillance of infectious diseases caused by pathogens up to risk group 4 where needed
  • Deploy at short notice, flexibly, professionally, and globally in response to emergency situations (WHO/GOARN, ECPP or SEEG/GIZ)
  • Support the development, validation and implementation of new diagnostic methods
  • Support operational research in the field
  • Establish mobile and or stationary laboratory capacity in low-resource settings in close collaboration with local partners such as Nigeria, Guinea, Benin and Sierra Leone
  • Coordinate the mobile laboratory capacities, including the European Mobile Laboratory (EMLab)
Three local laboratory employees, an instructor wearing personal protective equipment (blue smock and orange gloves), and two trainees also wearing similar personal protective equipment are standing around a glovebox. One trainee has his hands in the glovebox. He safely changes the gloves connected to the glovebox by replacing the old gloves with new ones. He is assisted by a second trainee. The instructor supervises and guides the glove changing process. The other three trainees observe the process.
An instructor (right) teaches five trainees the "glove change" procedure required to safely operate a glovebox.   ©BNITM