FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2018

U.S. lab deployed to Mexico for disease outbreak surveillance

A U.S.-built advanced mobile biocontainment laboratory has been deployed to the Mexican state of Tabasco to provide the country with biosurveillance for disease outbreaks.

The lab is the first of its kind in Latin American and will provide new early warning capabilities for remote regions. The lab is representative of a new generation of technology being used on the front lines of disease surveillance for international public health.

"Global collaboration is essential in strengthening the security of nations by preventing and reducing biological threat(s), both deliberate and naturally occurring," Monica Heyl, a mobile labs expert who directed CBRNE/Mobile programs for the U.S. Army, said. "In that Mexico and the US share almost 2000 miles of border, we are deeply connected."

Many Mexican regions are especially vulnerable to diseases such as dengue fever after flooding or torrential rains. By deploying a mobile unit directly into an affected area, the time needed to identify and contain a possible epidemic is drastically reduced.

"The lab enables the community to quickly and effectively respond to large outbreaks of infectious disease in a manner that will greatly reduce their impact both locally and internationally," Steve Jones, the director of Counter Bio-Terrorism Operations for Public Health Agency Canada during the 2010 Olympics, said. "The region has to contend annually with very severe weather conditions that exacerbate natural disease outbreaks making reliance on fixed laboratories unfeasible. This lab will put cutting-edge diagnostic capability directly into the outbreak zone and enhance the capabilities for critical decisions in a public health emergency."

The mobile unit was created by Germfree, a U.S. manufacturer that also provides bio-containment labs to remote regions in Africa and Asia.