Background: Ebola virus emerged in West Africa in December 2013. The high population mobility and poor public health infrastructure in this region led to the development of the largest Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak to date.
Methodology/principal findings: On September 26, 2014, China dispatched a Mobile Biosafety Level-3 Laboratory (MBSL-3 Lab) and a well-trained diagnostic team to Sierra Leone to assist in EVD diagnosis using quantitative real-time PCR, which allowed the diagnosis of suspected EVD cases in less than 4 hours from the time of sample receiving. This laboratory was composed of three container vehicles equipped with advanced ventilation system, communication system, electricity and gas supply system. We strictly applied multiple safety precautions to reduce exposure risks. Personnel, materials, water and air flow management were the key elements of the biosafety measures in the MBSL-3 Lab. Air samples were regularly collected from the MBSL-3 Lab, but no evidence of Ebola virus infectious aerosols was detected. Potentially contaminated objects were also tested by collecting swabs. On one occasion, a pipette tested positive for EVD. A total of 1,635 suspected EVD cases (824 positive [50.4%]) were tested from September 28 to November 11, 2014, and no member of the diagnostic team was infected with Ebola virus or other pathogens, including Lassa fever. The specimens tested included blood (69.2%) and oral swabs (30.8%) with positivity rates of 54.2% and 41.9%, respectively. The China mobile laboratory was thus instrumental in the EVD outbreak response by providing timely and reliable diagnostics.
Conclusions/significance: The MBSL-3 Lab significantly contributed to establishing a suitable laboratory response capacity during the emergence of EVD in Sierra Leone.