Outbreaks of infectious diseases pose a substantial risk for public health, especially in remote rural regions where the disease surveillance infrastructure often is limited, as qualified laboratory specialists, diagnostic capabilities are mostly located in cities. However, during local infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics it is critical that such resources are available in these locations to support the population and prevent potential larger outbreaks; this has been true also in the case of COVID-19 pandemic.
To support the Republic of Uzbekistan with such capacity needs, Uzbek experts were trained in the deployment of mobile laboratory units from March 25th to April 1st 2022, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. This training was part of the activities of Project 53 “Strengthening the National Legal Framework and Provision of Specialized Training on Bio-Safety and Bio-Security in Central Asian and South-East and Eastern European Countries” implemented by the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) within the framework of EU Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence (EU CBRN CoE) Initiative financed by the European Commission. The training was hosted by the Republican Specialized Scientific and Practical Medical Center for Epidemiology, Microbiology, Infectious and Parasitic Diseases (RSSPMCEMIPD) of the Republic of Uzbekistan and was delivered by the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology (IMB) of Germany.
This was the third training in a series of training-workshops conducted by IMB to enhance the capacities of the Uzbek experts from RSSPMCEMIPD and the Research Institute of Virology (RIV) of the Republic of Uzbekistan, in the handling and use of the mobile laboratory equipment. The series of training-workshops are based on the two diagnostic mobile laboratory units which were produced by IMB and handed over to the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan in July 2021, to support the response to COVID-19 outbreak. These mobile laboratories are devised to allow for the analysis of diagnostic samples against a variety of pathogens in remote and rural regions, where stationary laboratory capacities are not available. The laboratories were provided to Uzbek stakeholders to enhance their capacity to detect and respond to the outbreaks of highly infectious diseases.
The training was designed with a practice-oriented approach in which the trainees are taught all aspects of running the mobile lab in real life scenarios. The trainees were encouraged to autonomously apply their skills in sample handling and real-time PCR and react to new situations with little guidance. The training also envisaged a daily debrief where all challenges addressed were discussed.
This training event will be followed by two field exercises planned for 2022, in which the deployment of the mobile laboratories and work under simulated disease outbreak conditions will be practiced.
The EU CBRN CoE Initiative is funded by the European Commission and implemented in cooperation with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) and the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC). The European External Action Service is also involved in the follow-up to the initiative. The initiative is developed with the technical support of relevant international and regional organizations, the EU Member States, and other stakeholders, through coherent and effective cooperation at the national, regional and international level. The initiative involves 62 countries in eight regions across the world.