Development of a Mobile Laboratory for Sudden Onset Disasters

Ian Marr, Joshua R. Francis, Dianne P. Stephens, Kristy Marshall, David J. Read, Rob W. Baird, Nicholas Coatsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objectives:Clinical diagnostics in sudden onset disasters have historically been limited. We set out to design, implement, and evaluate a mobile diagnostic laboratory accompanying a type 2 emergency medical team (EMT) field hospital.Methods:Available diagnostic platforms were reviewed and selected against in field need. Platforms included HemoCue301/WBC DIFF, i-STAT, BIOFIRE FILMARRAY multiplex rt-PCR, Olympus BX53 microscopy, ABO/Rh grouping, and specific rapid diagnostic tests. This equipment was trialed in Katherine, Australia, and Dili, Timor-Leste.Results:During the initial deployment, an evaluation of FilmArray tests was successful using blood culture identification, gastrointestinal, and respiratory panels. HemoCue301 (n = 20) hemoglobin values were compared on Sysmex XN 550 (r = 0.94). HemoCue WBC DIFF had some variation, dependent on the cell, when compared with Sysmex XN 550 (r = 0.88-0.16). i-STAT showed nonsignificant differences against Vitros 250. Further evaluation of FilmArray in Dili, Timor-Leste, diagnosed 117 pathogens on 168 FilmArray pouches, including 25 separate organisms on blood culture and 4 separate cerebrospinal fluid pathogens.Conclusion:This mobile laboratory represents a major advance in sudden onset disaster. Setup of the service was quick (< 24 hr) and transport to site rapid. Future deployment in fragmented health systems after sudden onset disasters with EMT2 will now allow broader diagnostic capability.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalDisaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
Early online date21 Apr 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • diagnostics
  • disaster
  • infection
  • Key Words:
  • laboratory
  • mobile

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