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A genome sequencing laboratory in a suitcase for Ebola surveillance

By means of a small, portable genomic surveillance system, researchers are able to quickly analyse Ebola virus genomes on-site and thus conduct real-time surveillance on the recent Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa, as a team of international researchers report in Nature. RKI researchers were also involved in this study.

Genome sequencing is a helpful tool for outbreak surveillance as mutations in the viruses’ genomes give insight into transmission chains. If generated quickly enough, the results help epidemiologists to take appropriate infection control measures in the affected areas. The new genomic surveillance system consists of a DNA sequencing instrument the size of a spectacle case that weighs less than 100 grams and works with a standard laptop, which makes it an ideal device for on-site sequencing. In Conakry, Guinea, the team sequenced 142 samples from EVD patients, generating results in less than 24 hours. By this, they were able to provide very detailed information about how cases were related. The device will also be used in future outbreaks.

Researches from the Robert Koch Institute who were on deployments in West Africa to that time also contributed to the study. They provided epidemiological data and used the new device for analysing blood samples in the European Mobile Laboratory (EMLab).

Date: 04.02.2016