Prof Miles Carroll, Deputy Director, Head of Research, National Infection Service, Public Health England
Talk presented at the University of Oxford, Tropical Medicine and Global Health Department, 15th April 2016
The European Mobile Laboratory, EMLab, was the first EBOV diagnostics unit deployed to the outbreak epicentre by WHO in March 2014. This enabled access to many thousands of EBOV positive samples which were transported back to Europe and analysed by deep sequencing platforms to reveal the virus mutation rate and gain in site into pathogen transmission. Using the MinION, miniature sequencing device, the EMLab subsequently performed NGS on positive samples within Guinea in as little as 24 hours from receipt of positive samples. This enabled the provision of real time molecular epidemiology that helped guide the frontline activities of contact tracing to help halt the transmission chains. The research arm of the EMLab, EVIDENT, also established a study to dissect the immune response of EBOV disease survivors and make comparisons with that induced by vaccination. Additional studies on direct contacts of people infected with EBOV, indicates that many of them have immunity to the virus suggesting the official number of those infected during the outbreak is a significant underestimate. EVIDENT also supported the phase III ring vaccine trial and the favipiravir JIKI therapeutic trial.