How do you diagnose the Ebola virus in places that until recently had very little healthcare infrastructure? Just behind the frontlines of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, volunteers are running laboratories diagnosing Ebola cases. In late 2014 two PhD students in Professor Richard Elliott’s group from the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research spent five weeks in Sierra Leone helping to set up an Ebola diagnostic laboratory. Here Gillian Slack and Steve Welch explain their experience.
As virology PhD students with backgrounds in laboratory diagnostics, we both have experience of using blood, urine and saliva samples to diagnose tropical infectious diseases. We wanted to put those skills to good use in Sierra Leone.
We were part of a group of 14 volunteers from the UK travelling to Kerry Town in Sierra Leone where a treatment centre for Ebola patients was being established.
We received intensive training at the Public Health England labs in Porton Down, where they had built a scale replica of the lab we would be using. As well as the training, we also had numerous vaccinations and medical and psychological assessments before we were cleared to deploy.